Medical Cannabis, IBS & Intractable Pain: Vicki's Story

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LeafLine Labs patient, Vicki, was born and raised in Hibbing, Minnesota where she currently lives. She is a mother, a grandmother to four grandchildren, and has been with her significant other for over 14 years.

Vicki is a caregiver for her mother, who lives down the street, and she is passionate about helping people; she gets joy from inspiring smiles and laughter in others. She considers herself spiritual and meditates regularly. When she can, she incorporates yoga or pilates into her daily routine.

For the majority of her life, Vicki has lived with the pain, anxiety, and other symptoms that come with Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS), Fibromyalgia, Arthritis, GERD, Celiac disease, and numerous other food allergies.

To treat her various conditions, she has tried a seemingly countless list of medications and physical therapy, but the relief was always minimal and the side effects many.

Vicki describes herself as a happy, outgoing person but for the past few years she did not quite feel like herself. Her health, both emotionally and physically, went into decline. She experienced more pain and anxiety and began to eat and sleep less. She remembers days where she would force herself to get up and out of her pajamas just of so that her significant other, Kevin, wouldn’t know she hadn’t gotten out of bed all day.

When Vicki first learned about the medical cannabis program in Minnesota, she assumed that the requirements to become a patient were more restrictive than they actually were; she thought that one had to have been diagnosed with cancer or another terminal illness.

When a friend recommended she get certified and she realized she could qualify with her conditions, Vicki decided she needed to make a drastic change and would do anything to get there.

Vicki had experimented with cannabis in the past as a way to self-medicate but didn’t quite feel as though she was getting the relief she had heard so much about; she was eager to see what differences she would experience after enrolling in the state’s program.

In October 2018, she had her conditions certified, enrolled in the program and scheduled an initial consultation at the LeafLine Labs patient care center in Hibbing.

Since her first appointment, Vicki’s life has taken a drastic turn for the best. “The medical cannabis has taken the inflammation out of my body; it has taken the pain away,” she shares.

Now, she is doing things once again that she hadn’t in over two years. She feels an undeniable difference and everyone around her has noticed the improvement in her mood and the way she moves about her life.

Amazingly, Vicki has not had to take a single prescription or over-the-counter painkiller since she began using medical cannabis. She still takes medication to help her sleep at night, but has been able to cut her dosing in half.

Since she was young, Vicki has lived with thyroid problems. Just the other day, her test results came back and she was told she needs to decrease her dosing of Synthroid, a drug that replaces or provides more thyroid hormones. Since 1994, Vicki has never tapered her use of thyroid medication, only increased; Vicki is ecstatic about this change and believes wholeheartedly that cannabis has helped her get to this milestone.

Feeling better and more optimistic than she has in quite some time, Vicki is eager to see what other firsts and progress come as she continues to use medical cannabis. “It has given me my life back,” she shares.

She is grateful to have the energy and desire once again to spend time with her loved ones, pursue her passions and to move about her day with newfound effort and ease.

 Vicki with her son and daughter.

Vicki with her son and daughter.

Medical Cannabis Delivery Methods: Vaporization

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At LeafLine Labs we offer medical cannabis in a variety of forms, intended to help patients obtain the relief they seek in the most efficient way possible. Our 100% pure cannabis oils are free of potentially harmful diluting agents or solutions such as polyethylene glycol (PEG) or glycerine so you don’t have to worry about what is in your medicine.

Vaporizers can come with prepackaged oil cartridges or oils that patients load into a personal vaporizer themselves.

With vaporization, medication in pure extract oil form is gently warmed to the point that the medicine evaporates into a mist-like vapor and can be inhaled. This is not smoke and produces no products of combustion as smoking would.

Dosing is controlled by duration of the inhalation, similar to that of a metered-dose inhaler. Inhaled medication absorption is rapid and the therapeutic effects can be seen more quickly than with other forms, within a few minutes, although effects have the shortest duration.

Meet The Team: Emily

At LeafLine Labs, we know that exceptional patient care starts with an extraordinary team. That’s why we pride ourselves on our people. Get to know us, why dontcha?

Meet Emily, our Director of Cultivation.

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Tell us about yourself: I'm originally from Milwaukee, WI. I have a B.S. in Horticulture from the University of Wisconsin-Madison. I have a background in propagation, greenhouse production, and outdoor nursery production.

What does a typical day of work look like for you? A typical day is managing the cultivation team executing all parts of the indoor cannabis cultivation process as well as crop cycle planning and overseeing the facility maintenance.

What is your favorite part about your job? My favorite part of my job is working with our fantastic cultivation team to produce beautiful plants that becomes life changing medication for our patients.

What are you passionate about? I am passionate about plants. I'm so honored to be able to work with a plant such as cannabis that has been unfairly demonized for too long. Cannabis gives people a higher quality of life which drives me to do the best job I can every day.

Favorite way(s) to spend your free time: I enjoy having weekly dinners with friends, golfing, baking, and hiking.

Where do you see yourself in 10 years? (Who’s there with you, where do you live, where do you work, what do you do? Sky’s the limit.):

Favorite Minnesota sports team(s): Go Badgers! Go Packers!

You have to sing karaoke, what song do you pick? My favorite karaoke song is a duet with one of my best friends: "Don't Go Breaking My Heart" by Elton John and Kiki Dee.

What is your favorite Disney movie? Mulan

Delivery Methods: Heather Topical Gel Cream

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Created to provide relief for localized pain, LeafLine Labs’ Heather Topical Gel Cream is the most cannabinoid-concentrated topical available to patients in Minnesota.

Heather is our 1:1 formulation; combining THC and CBD in roughly equal amounts has shown to work well together for pain-related conditions.

This product provides anti-inflammatory and analgesic effects while eliminating the psychoactive component often experienced when taking oral, inhaled, or centrally absorbed medical cannabis formats.

Topical formulations act on cannabinoid receptors without breaching the bloodstream, which allows for efficient pain relief while minimizing side effects.

This medication is dispensed in an easy-to-use bottle which includes a built-in applicator that provides a pre-measured dose with each pump. This product may be used independently or in combination with other LeafLine Labs products.

Our pharmacy team often recommends this type of medication for painful muscle spasm disorders, neuropathic pain, and select cancer-related pain.

Meet The Team: Jeff

At LeafLine Labs, we know that exceptional patient care starts with an extraordinary team. That’s why we pride ourselves on our people. Get to know us, why dontcha?

Meet Jeff, a pharmacist at our Hibbing patient care center.

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Tell us about yourself: My grandfather started a drug store in Hibbing in 1922 and my dad took over in 1949. I joined the family business in 1979. I was the one in the family who was never going to go into pharmacy. I ran the family pharmacy for 16 years, worked for Fairview Retail for another 12, and at Walgreens for 8 years. I have been with LeafLine since June 2016.

What does a typical day of work look like for you? Seeing patients, talking to patients on the phone, writing orders, checking MCRs.

What is your favorite part about your job? The positive results and the impact we have on the patient's lives!!

What are you passionate about? This might be sad, but I have a lot of things that interest me but I don't know that there is 1 thing I am currently passionate about!

Favorite way(s) to spend your free time: Golf, curling, and eating out!!

Where do you see yourself in 10 years? I'll be 65 in August so hopefully laying on a beach somewhere and the only ice I have to worry about is in my drink!!

Favorite Minnesota sports team(s): Twins, Wild, Vikes, Gophers

Share a fun fact about yourself: I played on a team that was one of 6 teams that qualified for the 2002 Olympic Curling Trials that were held in Salt Lake. We didn't make it to the Olympics, but it was pretty cool playing at that level!!

Meet The Team: Amy

At LeafLine Labs, we know that exceptional patient care starts with an extraordinary team. That’s why we pride ourselves on our people. Get to know us, why dontcha?

Meet Amy, a Pharmacist at our Saint Paul patient care center.

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Tell us about yourself: I have been a pharmacist for 20+ years and worked in many areas of pharmacy. I grew up on a farm in Hastings and still live “on the farm” with my family. I love helping patients get the most out of their medication and enjoy talking them though the medical cannabis process, which can be overwhelming.

What does a typical day of work look like for you? Simple, I consult one-on-one with patients discussing their needs and goals for medical cannabis. I then help them determine a plan that will work for them based on those needs and goals and determine appropriate dosing.

What is your favorite part about your job? Helping our patients feel better.

What are you passionate about? Making a difference in the lives of our patients. We have such a unique opportunity at LeafLine and I am humbled to be part of our patients journey.

Favorite way(s) to spend your free time: With my family, kids grow up way to fast and I am trying to hold on to every last moment with them.

Favorite Minnesota sports team(s): Hastings Raiders (my kids’ teams)

What is your least favorite vegetable? Brussel Sprouts or beets. YUCK!

What did you name your first car? Tallulah Tempo (a light blue Ford Tempo from back in the day)

What is your favorite Disney movie? Swiss Family Robinson

How May Cannabis Help Patients With PTSD?

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Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) became a qualifying condition for the medical cannabis program in Minnesota on August 1, 2017.

PTSD is a mental health disorder that manifests after a traumatic event. Symptoms of PTSD are varied but often include: disturbed sleep, anxiety (specifically when in a situation similar or reminiscent of the traumatic event(s), flashbacks, and more.

In severe cases of PTSD, these symptoms can greatly impact daily life. There is no cure for PTSD, but its symptoms can be managed with medication and therapy.

Medical cannabis can help patients with PTSD by decreasing anxiety, improving sleep, decreasing nightmares, and helping to reduce avoidant behaviors.

LeafLine Labs pharmacists are experienced in treating patients with PTSD, and many of our patients who are currently being treated for the disorder have achieved great symptom relief. Our goal with medical cannabis therapy is to help manage the symptoms of PTSD and help improve patients’ quality of life as much as possible.

How May Medical Cannabis Help Patients With Arthritis?

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Arthritis itself is not a qualifying condition for the medical cannabis program in Minnesota, however, LeafLine Labs treats many patients with arthritis who have qualified for the medical cannabis program under Intractable Pain.

Medical cannabis’ ability to reduce pain and inflammation is well established, and many patients currently being treated for arthritis symptoms at our care centers have reported greatly improved symptoms.

Every arthritis patient has unique needs, and a consultation with a LeafLine Labs pharmacist is the best way to determine what medications are most likely to work for their symptom profiles.

For example, one patient may be seeking greater pain relief and help sleeping through the night, and another patient may be trying to be more active with less pain during the day. These two patients would likely have different treatment plans. We can create virtually any custom ratio of CBD to THC and use what the patient feels works best for them.

Our goal with medical cannabis therapy is to help manage the symptoms of arthritis, such as reducing pain and inflammation, and to help improve patient’s quality of life as much as possible.

How May Medical Cannabis Help Patients With IBD and Crohn's?

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For patients with Inflammatory Bowel Disease and Crohn’s Disease, pharmacists typically recommend products, or combinations of products, that provide ample CBD levels with a smaller amount of THC.

Cannabis has anti-secretory effects and decreases intestinal motility, therefore reducing the frequency of loose stools or diarrhea.

CBD is highly effective as an anti-inflammatory agent; studies have reported CBD is anywhere from 4 to 20 times more potent than aspirin as an anti-inflammatory. CBD also mitigates certain effects of THC; by using higher amounts of CBD than THC, patients experience the benefits of THC with a smaller chance of undesired effects such as sedation or dizziness, allowing them to be more active during the day.

THC can reduce intestinal contractions and therefore help with cramping. THC also helps reduce pain sensation. Unlike most opioid pain relievers, cannabis does not cause constipation. THC also reduces anxiety, decreases nausea and increases appetite.

IBD & Crohn’s disease patients make up a small but growing number of our patients. We have seen patients experience symptom improvement, less diarrhea and nausea, and better pain control. Our goal with medical cannabis therapy is to help patients manage their disease and lead a more function, productive life doing the things they want to do. (And not having to worry about bathroom breaks!)




 

How May Medical Cannabis Help Cancer Patients?

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Tangerine, our high-THC and low-CBD formulation, is our most commonly used medication for cancer patients.

THC often gets a bad rap, but provides a lengthy list of therapeutic benefits such as: decreasing pain, improving appetite, increasing weight gain, and improving sleep. THC is also known for its anti-nausea, anti-emetic (vomiting) and anti-anxiety properties.

The small amount of CBD that is in this product has anti-inflammatory properties. CBD helps to improve the anti-nausea, anti-emetic and anti-anxiety properties of THC, which are helpful in progressive diseases as well as during and after chemotherapy.

THC and CBD have also shown to have anti-cancer properties, similar to chemotherapy but without the systemic damage. This has not been clinically proven, as it is all based on patient reports, but is promising nonetheless.

At LeafLine Labs, we see a variety of patients with cancer, ranging from pediatric to elderly, with a wide variety of diagnoses. We have seen many cancer patients who have experienced decreased nausea, healthy weight gain, pain management, improved sleep, decreased anxiety levels and who have been able to decrease their use of narcotics, sleep aids, or anti-nausea medications.

Read how medical cannabis from LeafLine Labs has helped Char after her stage 4 metastatic breast cancer diagnosis on the blog.

Medical Cannabis, Intractable Pain & Cancer: Lisa's Story

Lisa of Apple Valley, Minnesota, is a mother to twin daughters, a wife, and Marriage and Family Counselor. Her husband, Mark, is a stay-at-home father. Together, they have worked hard to build the life they have always dreamed of.

Lisa had a lumpectomy when she was just 17. At age 22, she was told she had rheumatoid arthritis; the pain was so profound at one point that she was confined to a wheelchair. Years later she was diagnosed with metastatic breast cancer and Hodgkin’s lymphoma.

“I remember looking at my nightstand and my Oxycodone was half full. Half full, not empty,” Lisa recalled. “And I panicked. I thought, I need more. And I wasn’t even close to being done with it. It was just that fear the pain would come back.”

To treat the pain, she tried everything. From surgeries, to infusions, to a long, convoluted list of medications and prescription painkillers. Nothing worked. As far as the pain medications went, they only sedated her and left her in a constant fog, but they didn’t help with the pain.

“The days didn’t look like anything,” she remembers. “My days blurred into one another. I wanted to be asleep, I didn’t want to be present.”

Her days consisted of short periods of work and restless sleep. After her two beautiful daughters, Lily and Lucy, were born, she remembered crying a lot. The pain kept her bedridden most of the time and the painkillers left her feeling numb and exhausted. At the time, she didn’t have the physical strength or energy to participate in her girls’ lives the way she wanted to. It broke her heart.

Her husband, Mark, has stood by her side through all of it and took care of Lisa and their girls. He stayed at home during the day to take care of Lily and Lucy and lovingly attended to Lisa’s every need; he would often clothe her, help her with her hair, and fetch her a glass of water when she couldn’t get out of bed. “His days never ended,” Lisa shared, “He was, and is, my rock.”

As a last resort, she decided to enroll in the medical cannabis program.

Going into her first appointment at LeafLine Labs, Lisa and Mark were both weary. She had taken an unconventional path to find a certifying physician for the program and it all still felt surreal. They were both pleasantly surprised at the professionalism, compassion and kindness they were met with at her initial consult; it was unlike any other medical experience she had ever had.

“The system works so much better than any other system we have. “Hey, what does your pain look like? Where, when is this hurting you? This matches you,”” Lisa explained, “You don’t ask those questions with opiates. It went from being a shady, weird experience to oh my gosh, this is new age.”

Lisa and her pharmacist have worked together to find a combination of Tangerine and Heather that provides her with just the right amount of relief. She still has flare ups of pain and struggles with asleep from time to time, but her quality of life has increased exponentially.

“I think it was the first time I really rested well and was able to go to sleep,” Lisa recalled of her first dose.

The opioid fog has been lifted and Lisa feels better than she has in over a decade. Although she still occasionally uses opiates for flare ups of breakthrough pain, she has reduced her use of prescription painkillers by about 75 percent. Her need for morphine and benzodiazepines has been completely eliminated.

Before medical cannabis, she believes her quality of life was close to a 2 on any given day. Now, she experiences days, more often than not, that feel like an 8. Her husband, Mark, agrees; before medical cannabis, anything physical - whether it was getting her food or water, or helping her to get up to go to the bathroom in the middle of the night - he would have to help her with. Now, she can do things on her own once again.

“I’m the one that bathes them now,” she gushed. “There’s a sense of pride to that because before, I couldn’t.”

On Saturdays, Lisa and her family go on outings. Now that they don’t have to bring her wheelchair everywhere and Mark doesn’t have to push her, they can do more, they can go farther. They visit amusement parks, apple orchards and places like the zoo.

Aside from helping Lisa find relief from various sources of pain, Lisa believes medical cannabis has helped to bring her family closer together. “We learned really early on in life that things can be taken….the people, your family, that’s all of it [that matters],” she said. “This program has impacted my family. [My husband] can pay more attention to my daughters if he doesn’t have to take care of me….It makes me happy. It has changed my life."

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Medical Cannabis, Seizures & Autism: Hiroki's Story

Hiroki of Cottage Grove, Minnesota, is 8 years old. Cognitively, he has progressed to approximately age 2. His smile can light up even the darkest of rooms. He enjoys spending time with his family and playing with his younger brother, Taiyo. He loves to walk with his parents, grandma or his professional au pair to the mailbox each day. Hiroki becomes giddy with excitement when he knows it’s time; weather permitting, they venture past the mailbox and toward his favorite fence so he can run his hands along it and then take a long walk around the neighborhood.

At the time of his diagnosis at 1 years old, Hiroki was 1 of 600 in the world known to have Phelan-McDermid syndrome (PMS), a rare genetic condition commonly characterized by intellectual disability of varying degrees, delayed or absent speech, low muscle tone, seizures, and motor delays.

Around age 3, Hiroki was diagnosed with epilepsy and autism spectrum disorder, which are both common characteristics of PMS. He also has a number of other conditions such as asthma, dysphagia, autoimmune dysfunction, and hip dysplasia.

Misa and Dan, Hiroki’s parents, characterize their lives as “Before” (Before Medical Cannabis) and “After: (After Medical Cannabis) because of the stability medical cannabis has brought to the family.  Before medical cannabis, most of their family’s days were stressful, repetitive and rushed.  Unable to stay at home because of Hiroki’s anxiety and need to be “out and about,” they would be out the door by 8:30 am and back by noon for Hiroki’s nap.  And then, they’d be out the door again by 3 pm and home around 7 pm. On every outing, Hiroki would get upset and cry if they took a left rather than a right. Hiroki himself was stressed and anxious, and he would have a hard time sleeping at night.

Before Hiroki’s seizures were controlled with the help of medical cannabis, Misa and Dan became unofficial detectives and nurses.  Hiroki is nonverbal and does not sweat, which is characteristic of children with his diagnosis and makes it difficult to determine how he is feeling. For most of his life, Hiroki’s parents have lived in fear. “It’s like we play detective,” Misa explained of his seizures, “We’re always trying to figure out when the next big one is coming.”

Every 2 weeks to 2 months, Hiroki would experience grand mal seizures so critical that he would often stop breathing. His last seizure was so severe that it left him unconscious for more than 30 hours. At one point in time, Hiroki was being seen by 22 specialists and taking up to 8 different medications per day. His parents were determined to find a more holistic tool for them to help treat symptoms of his diagnoses.

Since starting medical cannabis (the “After”) 3 years ago, so many doors have been opened for Hiroki. He has not had a single grand mal seizure since. Although he still becomes anxious with changes to his routine, his cognitive speed and functioning have increased and his ability to cope with daily changes has improved significantly. He is more aware and present, and he’s beginning to show more interest in interacting with family and peers. He can spend time comfortably at home, school assignments and walk on the treadmill. “Team Hiroki” has been able to teach him how to use his iPad to communicate simple sentences like “I want to eat PB&J”--one of his favorite snacks.  Misa and Dan are grateful for the simplest of “typical” family routines: eating a family meal together at home, playing games as a family, and dancing together in the living room.  Within the community, he can go to horse therapy in the summer, adaptive snow ski in the winter and family golf outings. Visits to the pharmacy and the number of prescriptions he takes have drastically declined, which his parents are ecstatic about. He now actively sees only three specialists and is taking 2 medications.

Misa and Dan feel like he is making cognitive gains each day and they have been able to potty train him to some degree, which is extremely rare for children with his condition.

Hiroki can now scoot down the stairs after waking for the morning or from his afternoon nap. He can also drink from his sippy cup, a new freedom for Hiroki that he has never experienced before.

His mother believes Hiroki’s, as well as the entire family’s, quality of life has gone from a 1 to a 10 since he began medical cannabis. “There is nothing that has changed our lives more significantly than the availability of medical [cannabis],” she shared.

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Medical Cannabis, Seizures, Autism & Intractable Pain: Lucas's Story

Lucas of Lakeville, Minnesota, is in many ways your typical 18-year-old boy. He loves girls, Will Ferrell movies, and sports--baseball is his favorite. He also loves some good potty humor, Elmo, and spending time with his big sister.

At age 3, Lucas was diagnosed on the autism spectrum and with cerebral palsy. Around the same age, his parents were told that he also suffered from seizures.

In addition to the seizures, Lucas would often inflict harm on himself or others. He was anxious, restless and would often struggle to get restful sleep. Some of Lucas’s behavioral tendencies has made it hard for his family to spend time out in their community. “Autism is our life,” his mother explained. Lucas and his family have spent many days at home watching TV.

To help manage symptoms and the progression of his diagnoses, Lucas was prescribed a number of different medications. Unfortunately, most of those medications came with side effects that required even more medications to manage them, adding to an already lengthy list of prescriptions. Nearly two years ago, Lucas’s cholesterol and triglyceride levels were so high that his doctor prescribed him Fenofibrate, a common drug for his condition but uncommon for someone so young.

After they had exhausted what seemed like every treatment option, Lucas’s physician recommended enrolling in the medical cannabis program in Minnesota. Interested in lowering the number of prescription medications he was taking and finding a more natural treatment option, his parents were immediately interested.

Since Lucas was young, Olivia had researched and kept in mind the possibility of medical cannabis as an alternative for him, but for years it wasn’t legal and she still had her hesitations once the program started in 2015. After Lucas’s physician certified his condition and they enrolled through the Minnesota Department of Health, it took nearly a month for his parents to decide to make an appointment at LeafLine Labs.

Now, Lucas experiences relief from pain and seizures without the long lists of side effects that prescription medications left him with; they have been able to wean him off most of his pharmaceuticals.

Lucas is mostly nonverbal and prefers not to be touched most of the time, but one of the words he uses frequently is cream. When he experiences pain from scoliosis, for which he is undergoing a spinal fusion surgery in mid-July, he will ask for his cream and stand perfectly still while one of his parents rubs the Heather Topical Gel Cream on his back. “It’s pretty incredible,” his mother remarked.

“As soon as the cannabis was given to him, the hitting of himself stopped. The violent outbursts with us stopped. It was like night and day,” Olivia shared. “I was really expecting him to start speaking and, you know, write his own name and all of these other miracles. I know they will happen someday, though. Just the fact that he stopped hurting himself was enough.”

Olivia describes Lucas as being more self-aware. “I feel like he’s in our world more than he used to be,” she said.

Lucas is thriving in his autism program at school and he is expected to graduate when he turns 21. He can sit in class, focus and not get distracted by what’s going on around him. His parents feel as though he’s learning and making cognitive gains more so than ever before and they haven’t noticed any seizures since he began taking medical cannabis.

He is more interested in participating in the world around him. The other day, his face lit up when his sister entered the room, his mother shared, whereas before he may not have even noticed.

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This past February, Lucas attended his second Night to Shine prom night experience, an event sponsored by the Tim Tebow Foundation for people with special needs age 14 and older. In contrast to his first time prior to medical cannabis, this last prom was a night-and-day difference. He wore his first tuxedo, he participated in activities and interacted with his peers, and he seemed more focused. “He really seemed to enjoy himself,” Olivia shared.

Lucas’s parents are amazed every day by the improvements in health, mood and behavior they’ve seen in their son, and they are eager to witness even more progress once he begins to heal from his spinal fusion surgery in July.

Looking back to the beginning of Lucas’s journey with medical cannabis, Olivia’s only regret is not making an appointment immediately. “It could have been one more month that he had this medicine,” she said.
 

Intractable Pain, Obstructive Sleep Apnea & Medical Cannabis: Tony's Story

Meet Tony, a LeafLine Labs patient who lives in Apple Valley, Minnesota. He is your not-so-typical ‘retired’ (as he likes to call it) 25 year old. He graduated from Augsburg College with a degree in Management Information Systems. He’s sharp, smart, and has a great sense of humor. A self-proclaimed music critic, he runs his own blog where he shares his thoughts on the best and worst of the industry. He enjoys going to movies, playing video games, and spending time outside as much as he can.

Tony grew up walking, running, and participating in all the activities of a typical childhood. When he was 4 ½ years old, he started showing signs of Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy (DMD), a disorder of progressive muscular weakness most commonly found in boys. To help manage symptoms of DMD, Tony began taking steroid injections.

Although the steroids helped to slow the progression of DMD, they did not come without side effects. Most notably, he stopped growing around age 12. He also experienced cataracs, high blood pressure and often crippling anxiety. His appetite was small, at best, most of the time. He was later diagnosed with Obstructive Sleep Apnea.

Tony’s calf muscles were the first part of his body weakened by DMD, which caused him to walk on his tiptoes. In middle school his overall mobility was quite affected. By high school Tony was using a wheelchair.

The combination of side effects from steroid injections, the chronic pain from sitting in a wheelchair all day, and the stress and physical toll a lack of sleep takes on the body led him to to enroll in the medical cannabis program here in Minnesota in November 2016.

Prior to enrolling, Tony and his family--mom, dad, and brother--took part in petitioning the addition of Intractable Pain to the medical cannabis program in Minnesota. They’ve attended rallies at the capitol and consider themselves advocates for cannabis as medicine.

Tony and his parents struggled to find a physician who would certify his condition. Eventually, they were referred to a physician who was willing to help and was actively certifying patients for the medical cannabis program. “It was challenging. Worth it, but I wish it was easier,” his mother, Carol said.

Since beginning cannabinoid therapy with medicine from LeafLine Labs, Tony’s life has been changed for the better. His quality of life, as well as his family’s, has increased significantly. His appetite is back, he has real, lasting pain relief, and his anxiety is manageable. He can sleep through the night. He can spend longer periods of times doing the things he loves, and he can also spend more time in his wheelchair without his back hurting. He is completely off steroids. “It makes everything better,” Tony said.

As parents and caregivers, Carol and Steve, have found an incredible amount of relief in seeing the changes in their son’s mobility, mood, and overall quality of life. His diagnoses have helped them, as well as his brother, appreciate their own health and not take anything for granted.

Tony and his family work every day to embrace and embody the adage “Live life to your fullest," and medical cannabis has been a key component in allowing all of them to do just that. One of the perks of his situation? “Handicap parking,” Tony joked. Remember that great sense of humor?

Tony’s piece of advice for anyone considering enrolling in the medical cannabis program here in Minnesota: “Don’t pass it by without giving it a chance…”

 

Summer 2018 LeafLine Labs Patient Care Center Update

May 24th, 2018

In order to best serve and care for you, our growing community of patients, we have decided to adjust our hours of operations at our patient care centers across the state. As new conditions and patients come to the program, we have a responsibility to you, the LeafLine Labs team, and the State of Minnesota to operate efficiently and responsibly. In alignment with the shift in hours and to accommodate increased demand, we are no longer able to accommodate walk-ins for consultations, which means all consultations will need to be scheduled on an appointment-only basis going forward.

Starting on June 11th, 2018, LeafLine Labs patient care centers in Eagan, Saint Paul and St. Cloud will have updated hours, which will be as follows:

Monday-Saturday: 9am to 5pm
Sunday: closed

Hours at our Hibbing patient care center will remain the same:

Monday-Thursday: 9am-5pm
Friday: 9am-3pm
Saturday: 9am-1pm (every 1st and 3rd Saturday)
Sunday: closed

Our mission and driving force behind everything we do at LeafLine Labs is to provide exceptional care for our patients, and we believe these changes are in alignment and full support of that mission.

If you have questions, comments, or concerns, we are always just a phone call away. Please call us at 1-844-LEAFLINE.

 

Sincerely,

The LeafLine Labs Team

 

Medical Cannabis in Minnesota Proves Successful in Fight Against Opioid Epidemic

As a physician with a clinical career spanning 14 years, I’ve been both trained and compelled to learn more and strive to care better. As such, upon recognizing the practitioner’s role in a multifactorial, pervasive, complex, systemic, escalating healthcare problem that has become formally acknowledged as America’s devastating prescription opioid epidemic, and federally acknowledged as a “Public Health Emergency,” I was inspired to pursue education and innovation over inertia and inaction.

For the last two years, the CDC has published data suggesting decreasing life expectancy despite increasing healthcare expenditure in the U.S. Opioids are now responsible for over 42,000 U.S. deaths annually and prescription drugs have become our nation’s leading cause of preventable death. More of us are dying from opioid overdoses than from either car accidents or gun violence.

Emboldened with the knowledge that our existing pharmacopeia was offering too little for some, while concurrently too much for many, I stepped away from traditional clinical practice to found LeafLine Labs, one of only two registered manufacturers and providers of medical cannabis and associated care in Minnesota.

Medical Cannabis has a documented history of medicinal use and success in the management of pain and other symptoms and conditions for the past 5,000 years, without a single case of death ever documented or attributed to acute toxicity or overdose.

Since the launch of the state’s program three years ago, over 5,000 LeafLine Labs patients have received our life-changing medicine, with ZERO serious adverse health events or hospitalizations attributed to our care, and countless stories of success. Our medicine has proven safe, consistent and effective, with patients experiencing fewer seizures, fewer symptoms, fewer side effects, and more sleep, more quality of life and more hope. And while we are pioneering prospective studies that will show the undeniable impact of medical cannabis, the compelling data we have observed to date is tangible evidence that this medicine is already impacting and saving lives.

The research team at LeafLine Labs has taken the first step to quantitatively confirm what we have anecdotally seen as professional caregivers over and over—medical cannabis is an appropriate medicinal treatment option for both pain control and for tapering patients off of opiates. A retrospective chart review of 100 LeafLine Labs patients (50 males, 50 females, age range 23-91, randomly selected) who qualified for Minnesota’s program due to intractable pain and were on opiate medications upon their initial consult has recently been completed, with more to follow.

The results are more than impactful. They are monumental as evidential support to confirm that medical cannabis is a safe, effective way to manage and alleviate pain. We found that 90 percent of patients had a decrease in their self-reported chronic pain level after 30 days of treatment (a result that was successfully maintained through 90 days) and 35 percent of patients had a self-reported decrease in their opiate use and/or had discontinued opiate use entirely after 30 days of treatment (a result that was similarly maintained through 90 days). The most common additional benefits cannabis provided, in addition to pain reduction, were sleep improvement (49 percent) and anxiety relief (26 percent). These results are nothing short of a miracle for patients who have been dealing with pain, dependence, addiction and debilitating side effects from opioids for years.

In an enlightening and now replicated 2014 study published in JAMA, the mere existence of a responsibly regulated medical cannabis program within a state allowing chronic or intractable pain as a certifying patient diagnosis correlated with a 25-33 percent reduction in prescription opioid overdose deaths. With responsible medical advancement, thousands of lives have already been saved, and more progress will follow.

As a profession that places patient well-being as our highest priority, we must accept responsibility to re-examine prescribing practices. That means embracing cannabis for the medicinal option it has always been and responsibly replacing its perceived stigma with medical relevance, scientific legitimacy, and most importantly, effective and compassionate care.

The worst public health crisis of our time may tragically have been brought about by modernized Healthcare and the practice of medicine therein, but it may similarly be responsibly addressed and eradicated with bold actions by the same.

By Dr. Andrew Bachman, LeafLine Labs Founder, CEO and Chief Medical Officer

Medical Cannabis & Intractable Pain: Josh's Story

When Josh of Woodbury, Minnesota was 19, doctors found a blot clot; he was hospitalized for several weeks and put on blood thinners. Following his stay in the hospital, he developed venous ulcers on his feet from damages to his veins. Josh underwent multiple surgeries—including skin grafts—that were unsuccessful in removing his ulcers or bringing him the relief he deserved.

For nearly a decade, Josh lived in constant pain. His daily routine revolved around the meticulous care of his wounds and ulcers and managing his pain levels. A restful night’s sleep was rare; he only managed to sleep for 2 to 4 hours at a time. Half-way through the day his pain would start to increase and by the end of the day his feet were so swollen he would have trouble taking off his boots. Josh likens the pain to having barbed wire wrapped around his feet that was heated with a blow torch; the pain he felt on the side of his leg was like having glass jammed into it.

Josh was prescribed a lengthy list of pills, including opioids, which brought only minute levels of pain relief and riddled him with a number of side effects, including digestion issues. Other treatments Josh tried consisted of: medical ablation (which was done approximately 10 times), compression socks, air socks, elevating his legs above his head and blood thinners. None of these treatments were successful.

He was told by one physician that he could not be helped, so he looked for care elsewhere.

When one of Josh’s physicians recommended medical cannabis as a treatment option, he was apprehensive. Exhausted and in need of relief, Josh was considering amputating his leg before trying medical cannabis. With the encouragement of his physician and friends in other states who had either experienced or witnessed healing from the medicine, he decided to try it for 2 months. He made an appointment at LeafLine Labs in Saint Paul; it was his last resort.

Within the first week, he began to experience the relief he had been in search of for nearly a decade. He had a surge in energy, he was able to lower the number pain pills he was consuming right away, and was able to sleep for a full 8 hours for the first time in months.

“Luckily, I have seen real healing ever since starting medical cannabis. I never saw that before,” Josh says.

Now, he can focus better. He has been able to get back to the gym and in the last 6 months has lost 60 pounds. He eats regularly.  Josh still takes muscle relaxers and medications for his veins, but has been able to completely ween of all opioids. He feels better in his own body, more alive. His quality of life has drastically increased since he began using medical cannabis, and for the first time in years he has a renewed sense of hope for the future. Both Josh and his wife are eager to continue seeing him make progress and heal.

“…It’s life changing. When you are in a lot of pain, you look at everything with doom and gloom,” Josh shares, “When you are not in pain, there is a lot more joy and happiness. Life is easier.”

Medical Cannabis & Cancer: Amy's Story

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On June 1, 2016, Amy’s life—and all of her loved ones’ lives—changed forever; she was diagnosed with stage 4 metastatic breast cancer.

Amy—a wife, loving mother and entrepreneur who enjoys eating the incredible food made by her wife—lives in Saint Paul, Minnesota. She has started 2 businesses with her wife: Lucille’s Kitchen Garden and Midwest Pantry.

The first 6 months of treatment were especially trying not only physically, but mentally and spiritually as well. Amy took “really hard, tough” drugs, as she describes, and the chemotherapy would confine her to bed for 5 to 7 days each time. Throughout, she found herself anxious, nauseous and sleeping the majority of the time.

Although the combination of chemotherapy and steroids reduced the size of her tumor, it also destroyed her body. A torn rotator cuff left Amy with a limited (at best) range of motion in her shoulder and constant, excruciating pain. After 4 agonizing months of searching for a medication that would bring her relief with no avail, she was admitted to the hospital. Even once she was admitted, Amy went through trial after trial of opioids to find the one that worked best for her body before she could be released.

Having followed the industry and hearing stories of success from friends in her community, Amy inquired with her social worker and palliative care staff about medical cannabis as a treatment option. Once she received approval of her physician and was added to the state registry, she got her confirmation on a Friday and the next Monday she met with a pharmacist at LeafLine Labs.

Now, Amy has gone from taking 17 pills per day to only 4. Chemotherapy no longer robs Amy of precious time spent doing things she loves with the people she loves, like taking vacations to Costa Rica—which would not have been realistic before she began treatment with medical cannabis.

According to Amy, her experience with LeafLine Labs and medical cannabis has been very positive and amazing. She appreciates the kindness and willingness to help from the staff at her patient care center. The medical cannabis not only helps her with side effects of chemotherapy and the pain that comes with her diagnosis, but with her anxiety, depression and PTSD as well. “…this has been a life saver for me and has raised my quality of life,” Amy shares, “I appreciate the simplicity of the cannabis with no side effects.”

Last summer, she was in such a fog from the chemotherapy that she doesn’t remember much of anything that happened. This past summer, medical cannabis helped to ensure that Amy could function in comfort and enjoy time cooking with her wife, playing with her daughter, and enjoying life’s little pleasures. She has her life back, she claims. She has finally found relief.

Pharmacists' Role in the Minnesota Medical Cannabis Program

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Unlike most other states, Minnesota’s Medical Cannabis Program is overseen by the Department of Health and mandates that MN licensed Pharmacists meet with patients to develop a plan of care.  Product selection and dosing are determined by the Pharmacist in consultation with the patient.

Whether you are a prospective patient or you are simply curious about the patient experience at LeafLine Labs, we have consulted with our Pharmacy Team to provide insight on the role of pharmacists in the Minnesota medical cannabis program.

When you first come to a LeafLine Labs Care Center, you will meet with a Patient Care Coordinator to fill out initial paperwork. A Pharmacist then conducts an Initial Consult, which can last 30-45 minutes. As part of the Initial Consult, Pharmacists gather information from you (or a caregiver/guardian). We discuss past medical history, all current medications including other cannabis use, current and past diagnoses, any treatments for your qualifying condition, as well as other conditions or symptoms presently of concern. We screen for elements in past or current history that may warrant special consideration in LeafLine Labs medication therapy initiation, such as drug interactions or other medical conditions. Information you provide to the Minnesota Department of Health on a Self-Evaluation Survey is incorporated into our internal LeafLine Electronic Health Record, and reviewed with you.

After a thorough consultation, you and the pharmacist agree on an initial plan of therapy designed to meet your goals for symptom relief.  We educate you on all aspects of how to use your new medicine, as well as what to expect for effects and side effects. You will purchase your medicine at the end of the consult, right from the dispensary in the Care Center.

Generally, we like to see you for a Return Consultation after about 2 weeks of using Medical Cannabis, so we can “fine tune” the medication plan to best help you.  From there, you and the Pharmacist have an ongoing relationship for follow-up consultations and dosing adjustments as needed.

Medical Cannabis, Fibromyalgia, & PTSD: Kim's Story

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For Kim of Benson, Minnesota, it happened all at once. In the early winter of 2015, her father—who she adored—passed away and along with him, the remainder of her support system. She was devastated. Shortly after, she was diagnosed with shingles which took the chronic, widespread pain she lived in every day from fibromyalgia and multiplied it; the pain was horrific.

Kim, who has 5 dogs, 7 cats and several other four-legged friends (as well as two-legged), has been an animal lover since day one; when she was younger, she did not have dolls—she had pets. Raising and taking care of animals is a passion she shared with her father. She also loves to spend as much time outside as possible when she’s feeling up to it.

Kim was diagnosed with fibromyalgia back in 1996 and in 2015 when the shingles came, a pain she never could have imagined accompanied it. Although the rash from the shingles virus only lasted about 2 weeks, Kim suffered permanent nerve damage that she will live with for the rest of her life. She tried every solution her doctor recommended—from anti-seizure medications, to opioids and topical medications—but nothing worked. “I tried all of the heavy stuff, and it didn’t touch it. It didn’t even touch [the pain].”

In January 2017 when the pain was so excruciating and debilitating that she had to give up the deer she and her father had raised – all 43 of them – she felt as though she had nothing left to live for; there have been many days when the pain led to her question whether she wanted to live any longer.

“It’s very emotionally painful as much as it is physically painful. People just don’t understand [my situation],” Kim says, “…Take something that you’ve lived for and then never do it again. I don’t know how else to explain it.”

Once Kim’s doctor recommended she look into medical cannabis, she did not hesitate; medical cannabis was her last resort. Once her condition had been certified and she was added into the state registry, she made an appointment at LeafLine Labs.

It took approximately a month for Kim to find her therapeutic dose but now that she has, she has started to feel better than she can ever remember—that’s how long she has been living in pain.

“It’s a necessity is what it is now,” she explains, “To me, it’s no different than somebody that needs heart medication. If you don’t take this, you’re going to die.”

Before medical cannabis, she describes her quality of life, on a scale from 1 to 10, at 1. Now, with medical cannabis there are days where she feels so good, so normal, that she forgets to take her dose. She has been able to stop taking all of her prescription pain killers and is now free of all the side effects that came with them.

“I don’t even take Aspirin or Ibuprofen [for the pain]. At all,” she shares.

Kim feels as though the medical cannabis helps to relieve all pain from the nerve damage caused by shingles and she has yet to experience any side effects from her medicine. She truly believes that if her parents had been able to use medical cannabis when they were sick that their quality of life would have been drastically better before they passed. Medical cannabis helps Kim to care for her pets, spend time outside, and navigate her days in comfort; the relief she experiences gives her hope for the future.