holistic health

Medical Cannabis & Cancer: Mike's Story

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Mike, age 29, is a Minnesota-native who currently resides in Roseville with his wife, who is from Russia, and 4-year-old daughter. He enjoys traveling, In The Groove (a dance game similar to Dance Dance Revolution), Russian culture--he has been teaching himself the language over the past several years—and Rubik’s cubes.

Starting in 2015, Mike had difficulties falling asleep, even after periods of 40 to 60 hours of being awake. While being heavily sleep-deprived, he would experience an elevated heart rate and occasional mild, seizure-like muscle spasms when trying to fall asleep. There was one occasion where he experienced temporary blindness in the left half of his left eye.

With a recommendation from the Minnesota Epilepsy Group in August 2015, Mike decided to undergo an MRI; the imaging of his brain scan came back abnormal. He was told he had a benign brain tumor in his right frontal lobe. In February 2016, Mike underwent a craniotomy to resect the majority of the tumor, and after he did standard treatment of radiation and chemotherapy.

Having used recreational cannabis before his diagnosis, he was recommended to enroll in the Minnesota medical cannabis program. He began to pick up medication from LeafLine Labs. Being responsible for his family, he found comfort and security in pursuing medical cannabis legally. It also helped him to cope with the side effects during recovery.

His tumor responded to the treatment and Mike’s condition was stable for some time. Unfortunately in late 2018, the tumor re-occurred as a Glioblastoma Multiforme (GBM), a rare and aggressive type of brain cancer.

He went through radiation and is currently undergoing chemotherapy. Additionally, he was prescribed a long list of medications, many that came with various side-effects. For Mike, the biggest benefit of medical cannabis has been in dealing with nausea, and improving his overall mood. Although not a cure, medical cannabis helps to greatly improve his quality of life and affords Mike the opportunity to spend quality time with his loved ones and enjoy the things he is passionate about.

Medical Cannabis & Intractable Pain: Kaylie's Story

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When Kaylie of Woodbury, Minnesota was 15 she struggled with passing a kidney stone and underwent surgery. Six months post-surgery, Kaylie started to experience excruciating pain again similar to when she was passing her kidney stone. After going to some of the best doctors at Mayo Clinic and Cleveland Clinic, she was told her nerves connected to her kidney had been damaged and that she would live with the pain forever.

In the years after the life-altering news, Kaylie was diagnosed with a number of other conditions including endometriosis, irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), migraines and interstitial cystitis (IC).

From 2012 to 2018, Kaylie was under the care of a number of different doctors with moving from Minnesota, to Michigan and back to Minnesota again. For a period of time she saw a doctor in Grand Rapids who prescribed her several different opioids; that doctor is now being prosecuted by the government for over-prescribing opioids to Medicaid patients.

Every day, Kaylie lived in excruciating, crippling pain. In June 2018, Kaylie was at her worst; she was bedridden 22 hours per day and was on 23 daily medications, including opioids every three to four hours. On top of all the medications, she would visit a pain clinic once per week for spinal injections.

“I thought her life was over,” her mother, Shannon shares, “All she wanted to do was eat, lay in her bed and cry.” Kaylie gained nearly 100 pounds from 2012 to 2018.

“There were times where I would wake up and I would feel my mom standing above me and putting her hand on me just to see if I was breathing,” Kaylie remembers.

Kaylie lost any will or ability to participate in her own life. “She wouldn’t go 20 minutes past her time to take her pills,” her mom says, “She had all these containers, all these pills. She’d sort them out, it was like a job. It was all she could think about and she carried them around everywhere.”

Desperate to find relief for Kaylie, her mother sent her to Oregon, where medical cannabis is legal, while they waited for her certification to go through for the medical cannabis program in Minnesota. Kaylie’s grandmother lives in Oregon, ultimately to save her life.

Kaylie was in Oregon for approximately one month, and in that time she was able to begin weaning off her prescriptions. Since she left in June 2018 and came back to Minnesota, she has only taken two pills to relieve her pain.

While her stay in Oregon was the catalyst for change in Kaylie’s health and wellbeing, Kaylie is now a patient at LeafLine Labs and continues to heal and reach important milestones. Other than medical cannabis, she is now down to three medications for things like depression and acne. She has weaned off of all prescription painkillers and no longer sees a pain specialist.

She has lost 40lbs and counting since January and is finally starting to feel herself again, physically and mentally. “She’s coming back to life,” her mom shares, “She’s a totally new person...her entire chemistry changed. She physically couldn’t even form sentences before [when she was on all of her prescriptions.]”

Although Kaylie has not yet returned to work, she plans to. This May, she is starting school again; she’s excited to get back to the classroom and learn, meet new people and to figure out what career path she’d like to pursue. At the moment, she’s interested in business and veterinary school.

“All the side effects are so much less. I can go to the bathroom on my own. I can enjoy time with my family, which I’ve noticed in the past almost year now that just laughing with them and enjoying time is what’s important,” Kaylie reflects, “I didn’t get that, I was always in my room. I don’t have many memories [from before medical cannabis]…it’s nice to just be able to giggle and have fun and enjoy life.”

Kaylie will always live with pain and other symptoms that come with her many diagnoses, but medical cannabis has become a life-changing tool for Kaylie in finding relief, naturally. Her quality of life has improved ten-fold. The difference from before medical cannabis and now for Kaylie is night and day, the same goes for her family.

Rather than counting pills and spending the overwhelming majority of her time in bed, wracked with pain, she has the desire and ability to live her life again. She has rediscovered her passion for cooking and spends time every day grocery shopping and preparing food for her loved ones. She is able to spend quality time with her sister and grow their relationship, something that wasn’t possible when she constantly in a fog from opioids and her other medications.

Kaylie is strong, resilient and determined to get the most out of her life. Her experiences have made her appreciate the smaller things in life and take nothing for granted; she is thankful each day for the hope, healing and stability that medical cannabis has brought her. Her family is ecstatic to have her back, and she is excited to move forward and see what she can create and accomplish.

Medical Cannabis & Autism: Kali's Story

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Kali of St. Cloud, Minnesota is a junior at Apollo High School. She loves camping, swimming, traveling (Duluth is one of her favorite destinations), art and pursuing her new-found passion for photography. Kali has an older brother, loves to visit her grandpa Marvin in Sleepy Eye, and enjoys spending quality time with her family; their go-to activities include camping trips, bowling and trips to Denny’s.

When Kali was a baby, she didn’t start crawling until she was nearly eight months old; she didn’t start walking until she was two. She would never look at people--even at daycare. She didn’t interact with her peers and would sit by the corner of the fence and watch. As she grew up certain things improved but there were always new issues popping up.

In 2007, Kali was diagnosed with autism and severe anxiety; in 2019, she was officially diagnosed with sensory processing disorder.

The day-to-day for Kali and her family was difficult at best. She would have meltdowns that lasted anywhere from 15 minutes to an hour, and typically had several per day. At a certain point in time, they could not go anywhere or do anything with Kali--the simplest things would set her off, from the weather to attending school.

Kali was aggressive toward herself and others; she would often pull her own hair and hit herself. Once on a trip to Target on a busy afternoon, Kali had a meltdown and was kicking and screaming--she bit through her dad’s winter coat and drew blood. The anxiety and aggression sparked a lot of difficulties at school for Kali with peers and teachers.

In order to help her deal with symptoms of her diagnoses, they tried everything. Occupational therapy, speech therapy and in-home therapy. Over the years she took 23 different medications; Kali hated taking them, she didn’t like the way they made her feel. Every option they pursued, including her prescriptions, provided less-than-ideal results. Eventually, they discovered through testing that all of the medications were not absorbing correctly through the main pathway in her liver.

Exhausted and wanting to find relief for their daughter, Susann and Adam began to research alternative forms of treatment. A friend of Adam’s recommended a physician who certifies patients for the medical cannabis program in Minnesota. They were hesitant at first and took their time weighing the benefits before they made a decision, but Kali was still having trouble getting restful sleep at night, even with Trazadone and six other medications, and her aggression and anxiety still persisted. Something needed to change.

On a Thursday in October 2018, Kali’s condition was certified by her new doctor. Prior to their initial consultation, her parents stopped by the LeafLine Labs patient care center in St. Cloud for a run down of the process; they were pleased with how welcoming, friendly and informative the staff and overall visit went. “It was professional, like a doctor’s visit,” Adam and Susann shared. The next week, Kali and her parents met with a pharmacist and purchased medication for the first time.

Since beginning medical cannabis, Kali’s issues with aggression and harm toward herself and others has become non-existent; the family had an outing in Bentleyville not long after on a busy, crowded Saturday night and Kali did great--she had a blast and was in a fantastic mood throughout. Over the Holidays, Kali and her family were able to take shopping trips to the Mall of America, something they never were able to do before. There were many instances in the past where she would constantly cry about everything--there haven’t been any instances like that since October.

“I wish we could have done this a long time ago,” Susann said, “It would have made her life and ours a lot easier...It’s nice to to do simple things like go out to dinner and not have to worry.”

Now, Kali has a part-time job. She can tolerate being around people. She goes to, and stays, asleep without the help of Trazadone or other sleep aids. Most incredibly, she has been able to wean off of every single medication from before medical cannabis, including her Xanax extended release and Gabapentin. Kali feels like herself again, more so than ever.

Adam and Susann used to regularly receive emails and calls from school with concerns about relations with other students and poor performance in classes. Now, Kali is earning all As and Bs and she enjoys going to school. She is able to refrain from getting involved in the typical high school drama she used to not be able to stay away from.

She enjoys seeing her case manager who is helping to teach her new life skills; teachers at school have remarked about how focused she is and how they can tell she is able to think before she acts. A few months back, the principal pulled her aside and told Kali how proud she was of her.

Kali’s parents describe her as happy, loving and giddy these days. They are elated to see their daughter thriving and truly coming into her own. Before medical cannabis, Kali and her family’s quality of life was anywhere from a 1 to 3. Now, they say most days are an 8 or 9.

Adam and Susann are grateful for the profound impact medical cannabis has made on Kali and their family’s lives; they are more aware of, and are able to enjoy and appreciate the seemingly simple things in life yet again. They are hopeful and excited for Kali as she finishes high school and continues to reach important milestones in her life. They couldn’t be more proud of how far Kali has come.

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CBD: A Brief Introduction

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Interest in cannabidiol, or CBD, has exploded over the past months. Cannabidiol is one of the two main cannabinoids in cannabis, the other being THC. CBD, unlike THC, is not psychoactive and does not produce the same effects as THC. CBD has many different potential therapeutic uses and many patients have found pain relief, reduced anxiety, and improved sleep through CBD. Researchers across the world are currently working to better understand the mechanisms through which CBD works.

Most widely available CBD products are derived from hemp, which was recently legalized in the 2018 Farm Bill in December 2018. Hemp is a variety of Cannabis sativa that, per the 2018 Farm Bill, contains less than 0.3% THC. LeafLine Labs CBD products are not hemp derived, but rather from CBD-rich strains of cannabis. This bill also legalized products derived from hemp federally, such as CBD oils, prompting larger retailers such as CVS and Walgreens to stock CBD products. Hemp production will be tightly regulated, per the Farm Bill, and states are developing their own regulatory frameworks for hemp production as required by the new laws, though these regulations are still in their infancy and are still being developed in many cases.

The wide variety of CBD products available for sale from an ever-increasing number of sources can be daunting. One thing to consider when choosing a CBD product is that LeafLine Labs’ CBD products are subject to testing and regulations that far exceed most hemp-derived CBD products, due to the regulations of the Minnesota Medical Cannabis Program. All LeafLine Labs products must be tested for purity by an independent third party laboratory before they are sold to patients. This ensures that patients receive high quality, pharmaceutical grade medical cannabis.

Additionally, LeafLine Labs CBD products are full spectrum cannabis concentrates. This means that unlike other CBD products, which are often created from hemp distillates containing nothing but CBD. This means that they do not contain the terpenes and other naturally occurring cannabinoids and compounds that LeafLine Labs CBD products do. This limits how much they benefit from the “entourage effect”, the well documented phenomenon of terpenes maximizing the therapeutic effect of cannabinoids.

Cannabidiol therapy is an exciting branch of medical cannabis that needs to be investigated by researchers further to unlock its full potential. If you are a current LeafLine Labs patient, ask your pharmacist if a CBD product could help manage your symptoms. If you are interested in becoming a patient, click here to learn more about becoming certified as a patient under the Minnesota Medical Cannabis Program.

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 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!)




 

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.
 

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.

Medical Cannabis, Intractable Pain, & PTSD: Kristina's Story

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For Kristina of St. Cloud, Minnesota, her diagnoses of PTSD, Fibromyalgia, and a traumatic brain injury (TBI) brought a wave of relief for her and her loved ones. For decades, she did not know what was wrong with her; numerous doctors told her she was perfectly healthy and test results seemed to tell the same story.

Growing up, Kristina experienced bullying and harassment that eventually caused her to block out any memories of her childhood before age 10. When she was in high school, she started seeing a counselor to help her work through the feelings she was experiencing. Unfortunately, counseling was unsuccessful in bringing relief and as alternative treatment she was introduced to antidepressants.

During the decades before she was diagnosed, she was prescribed more pills than she could count from her psychiatrists and pain specialists, though the pain relief she experienced was not nearly significant enough to outweigh the side effects. In 2004 while taking her three children for a walk, Kristina and her family were struck by a distracted driver. Luckily, there were no fatalities, but Kristina and her youngest son sustained TBIs—both of which were not correctly diagnosed until years later.

Come 2011, Kristina was diagnosed with PTSD and it wasn’t until 2013—nearly 10 years after being struck by a car—that she was diagnosed with Fibromyalgia (which they believed was in-part due to PTSD) and a TBI. Putting a name to her conditions meant being able to pursue a more targeted treatment regimen, but her health care practitioners continued to prescribe pills—she overdosed several times.

When Kristina inquired about medical cannabis as a treatment option, her neurologist at a major health care system in St. Cloud refused to continue seeing her. This sent her into a dark spiral of depression and she embarked on a year-long journey to find a physician who would certify her for the medical cannabis program. There were times when she believed taking her life was the only way to find relief from her own thoughts and pain.

As she describes it, she lost herself. Kristina was in a constant fog. She was confined within the walls of her home, unable to participate in the world and to be the mother her children needed and she so desperately wanted to be. She could not put on makeup, shower, do the dishes, or even wear shoes because of the pain flares that come with Fibromyalgia. When she was able to muster the strength and will to attend family events, she would be bed-ridden and recuperating for weeks at a time afterwards.

Exhausted and in dire need of something that would improve—and quite frankly save—her quality of life, she was able to find a physician who would certify her for the medical cannabis program in December 2016. Once approved in the registry, she made an appointment at LeafLine Labs.

Although her qualifying condition was intractable pain, Kristina shares that she has seen the biggest improvements with symptoms related to PTSD. She is appreciative of how willing the pharmacists at LeafLine Labs are in treating all of her conditions, not just those that qualified her for the program.

Once she began using medical cannabis, it took about 10 weeks for her to be weaned off her pain medications and 5 months until she was off everything, including the medications she was prescribed to treat PTSD. “It was really hard,” she admits.

She felt like giving up many times due to withdrawals, pain and a racing heart, but she remained persistent and patient. Kristina’s loving husband, Byron—as well as her family and friends—were and continue to be supportive, compassionate, and understanding of her journey toward an improved quality of life. Today, she isn’t entirely healed and still must deal with symptoms from her conditions, but both she and her husband agree that her progress has been life-changing.

Kristina is now off of all pain killers and prescription pills she was prescribed for PTSD, Fibromyalgia, and her TBI. Not only is she willing, but also able, to leave her house again. She can do the dishes, put on her makeup, and wear shoes—at least for much longer periods than before. When she is able to attend family events, she can recuperate much faster and isn’t confined to her bed for weeks at a time. “I feel like myself once again,” Kristina says.

Before medical cannabis, she says she had no quality of life at all. Now, each day her quality of life is, on a scale from 1 to 10, anywhere from a 9 to 10. As for her pain, which used to be a 9 or 10 on any given day, it has been reduced to a more manageable range of 1 to 3.

Most importantly, Kristina can once again be a mother to her children. She can take her youngest son, who has been diagnosed on the autism spectrum and who has a fear of dogs, on walks outside. “I found myself. I’m back,” she gushes.

Last year for prom dress shopping, Kristina’s daughter was accompanied by her aunt because Kristina’s conditions prevented her from comfortably leaving the house. This spring, Kristina is overwhelmed with joy that she will be able take her daughter shopping to find the perfect prom dress; she attributes this monumental mother-daughter-first to medical cannabis from LeafLine Labs. Kristina, her husband, and her support system of friends and family are hopeful and excited to see what progress will be made as she continues to use this safe, natural medicine.

Medical Cannabis, Migraines, & Cluster Headaches: Mike's Story

“It feels like someone is pushing your eye out,” says Mike of Lakeville, Minnesota, on describing the pain he endures from cluster headaches. “Don’t worry, my condition isn’t contagious,” he jokes.

Mike is a husband, a father of two beautiful daughters and two dogs, and an avid runner. He has lived with vertigo off and on for most of his life, but it wasn’t until August 2016 that he started to experience excruciatingly painful cluster headaches and migraines. Once he was diagnosed, he spent most of the first four months confined to dark rooms, head on ice, with oxygen tanks ready at his side to help bring down the pain.

In the following months, Mike experienced cycles of pain so extreme and debilitating that he could no longer work or carry on with normal day-to-day functions. To treat the pain, Mike’s physician prescribed him Verapamil. Although the medication was very effective, he experienced low blood pressure and a low heart rate and it often left him feeling out of breath. Mike attempted to lower the doses he was taking, but the headaches would get worse each time. Looking for another option, his physician recommended he try Topamax—a ‘nasty, nasty’ drug as Mike describes it, “It’s almost like you’re on heroin walking around,” Mike says, “it really dumbs you down.”

Other prominent side effects from his medications included slurred speech, tingling throughout his entire body, fatigue and a foggy state of mind.

When Mike’s vertigo was at its worst, he decided to pursue self-medication. As an alternative to smoking—he didn’t care for the way it made his lungs feel or some of the other side effects—he began to make cannabis tea. When the tea helped, it would bring his pain and nausea, on a scale from 1 to 10, down from 8 to 4. “That’s the difference between being stuck in bed or being able to go out and cut the grass,” Mike explains.

The issue with making his own tea was that he was never quite sure what he was getting—what chemicals or fertilizers were used or what combinations of compounds were in the cannabis. Sometimes, he would have one cup and he would experience just the right amount of relief; other times, he would have one cup and would be over-medicated and confined to bed—the outcome he was trying to avoid in the first place.

Looking for more consistency and reliability in his pain management with the cluster headaches, Mike decided to pursue enrolling in the Minnesota medical cannabis program. In search of more information before making an appointment, Mike called LeafLine Labs. He remembers everyone he spoke to as helpful, professional, polite and kind, which gave him the confidence he needed to make his decision. He scheduled an initial consult with a pharmacist at LeafLine Labs.

Today, Mike’s pain generally ranges anywhere from 3 to 5, rather than 7 to 9. On his best days, medical cannabis helps to dull the pain from 2 to 3—which in Mike’s book is considered 0. With 3 on the pain scale, Mike can still do work around his home or spend time with his family, rather than being out of commission and unable to participate in his own life. The other benefit that Mike enjoys with the cannabis is the ability to sleep. When the headaches were at their peak he was sleeping 2 to 3 hours per night. He now regularly gets 8 hours. “The cannabis, it’s been huge. It’s just been huge,” Mike says, “It didn’t cure me or anything like that, but it suppresses the pain… Cannabis is one of my tools in this fight.”

Medical Cannabis, Tourette Syndrome, & Autism: Kyle's Story

Just before turning 3, Kyle Jr. was diagnosed on the Autism spectrum. Within the last year, Kyle, who turns 8 this summer, was also diagnosed with anxiety, ADHD, and Tourette Syndrome. Having tried 8+ different medications that either caused too many side effects or had no effect at all, his parents felt a wave of relief when they found out his Tourette Syndrome diagnosis qualified him for the medical cannabis program in Minnesota; they were out of options, and they so badly wanted to find relief for their eldest son.

Almost entirely non-verbal, Kyle Jr. would often get frustrated when he wasn’t able to communicate what he wanted or how he was feeling. “He was so angry all of the time,” his mother, Kassidy, remembers.

Sometimes, he would harm himself or others. The constant tics in various forms paired with anxiety and aggression left Kyle with little quality of life. Before medical cannabis, Kyle Jr. spent most of his time on the couch—playing or interacting with others was a rarity. Aside from bathing, there were few times he willingly left the couch—it was his safe spot. When he would leave, he would need to have someone’s hand to hold for even the simplest of tasks, like going to the bathroom. Car rides were hard, and going to the grocery store or any other kind of shopping was nearly impossible to do as a family.

Kassidy was pleasantly surprised at how quick and simple it was to complete the enrollment process and become a caregiver for Kyle. Once certified by a health care practitioner, it was only a matter of days until Kyle’s first visit at a LeafLine Labs patient care center. His family began to see a difference within days of his first dose of medical cannabis.

Today, 7 months after adding cannabis to Kyle Jr.’s health care regimen, his parents are astounded at the difference the medicine has made in not only his life, but their entire family’s. Kyle Jr.’s therapy team, dentist, and primary care physician have all remarked at the improvement in his behavior; during his last appointment to the doctor, he went with the nurse by himself for the first time to have his height and weight checked. His communication skills are vastly improving, he’s learning new letters and words, and he’s beginning to ask questions. His tics are less severe and less frequent. Harming himself or others is now rare. He plays. He smiles once again. He’s calmer. Most importantly, he’s joyful.

Kyle’s parents have a renewed sense of hope and are excited by the enormous impact and continuous improvements of medical cannabis on their son’s health and wellness. Kassidy wishes more people understood the benefits of medical cannabis. “It is medicine. They’re not getting high. They’re not getting drugged. There are pretty much no side effects… It’s safer [than other medications],” she says.

Medical Cannabis & Intractable Pain: Randy's Story

In 1989 while serving in the United States Navy, Randy sustained an injury along his cervical spine from C1 to T4. On September 21, 2016, Randy re-injured his cervical spine while undergoing a patient transport that lacked the proper ventilation equipment. His injuries eventually led to marrow edema from C1 to C3. He also developed degenerative disc disease and degenerative arthritis throughout the entirety of his cervical spine, which are both now progressing down into his thoracic spine into T4.

Before medical cannabis, Randy describes his quality of life as non-existent. The multitude of narcotic drugs used to treat his chronic pain robbed him of the ability to breathe on his own, forcing him to use a ventilator while sleeping due to central sleep apnea caused by the Oxycodone. On a scale from 1 to 10, his pain ranged from 7 to 10 and he was sick to his stomach constantly. He would spend his days sitting in a neutral position, moving as little as possible, to subdue his nausea. More often than not, he would go several days at a time without eating, and driving a car was out of the question. At one point, he was taking over 500 pills per month.

Wanting to find a more natural, sustainable path to relief and diminish his long list of prescription medications, Randy decided to enroll in the Minnesota medical cannabis program. Once he found a physician to certify his condition, he found the process to be much easier than he had initially imagined.

Now, his pain is finally under control and he rates it from 3 to 5 rather than 7 to 10. Randy has been able to eliminate Oxycodone, Etodolac, Nortriptyline, Venlafaxine, Tizanidine, Methocarbamol, Cyclobenzaprine and Lisinopril. Aside from an inhaler and allergy medications, he is free of pain killers and prescription medications. His blood pressure is down to a healthy level and he has been able to lose a healthy amount of excess weight. He no longer has central sleep apnea or peripheral pitting edema in his extremities and his obstructive sleep apnea seems to be going away. Finally, Randy feels as though his body is working the way that it was meant to and beginning to heal itself.

“Marijuana has saved the life I was given,” Randy says, “The horror stories are wrong… it’s definitely worth trying.”

Minnesota Medical Cannabis Program Annual Recertification and Enrollment

As a participant of the Minnesota Medical Cannabis Program, each year you must have your qualifying condition recertified by a Minnesota licensed physician, physician assistant (PA), or an advanced practice registered nurse (APRN) and pay the enrollment fee if you wish to continue to participate in the program.

Here’s what you need to know:

  • As a patient or caregiver, you must resubmit a copy of the certification from your health care practitioner on a yearly basis. Your recertification must be dated within 90 days of submission.
  • Recertification requires an in-person office visit with a health care practitioner who is registered in the Minnesota Medical Cannabis Program. You may recertify your condition up to 90 calendar days prior to your enrollment expiration date.
  • Your enrollment expiration date is based on a rolling year calendar that starts on the day you receive your acceptance e-mail into the program.    
  • You will receive a recertification reminder email at both 60 and 30 days prior to your enrollment expiration date.
  • If you complete the condition recertification and enrollment process prior to your annual enrollment expiration date, you will be automatically reenrolled on your yearly enrollment anniversary date. You will receive an approval e-mail confirmation once your reenrollment application has been reviewed by the Minnesota Department of Health.
  • If you are an approved caregiver in the Minnesota Medical Cannabis Registry, you do not need to complete any type of recertification or reenrollment. Your caregiver’s status is active, as long as the patient in your care is classified in the APPROVED status in the Registry.
  • If you do not complete the recertification process along with your payment before your annual expiration date, you will not be able to visit a Patient Care Center (PCC) or purchase medical cannabis. If you are listed as expired, you must complete the recertification and enrollment process and receive an approval e-mail from the Minnesota Department of Health before you can visit a PCC or purchase medical cannabis.

Questions about the annual recertification and enrollment process? Please comment below, call one of our patient care centers, or send an email to info@leaflinelabs.com.

The Minnesota Medical Cannabis Program: Setting a Gold Standard

Minnesota’s Medical Cannabis Program is unique - but how, exactly? To help break it down, we’ve compiled a list of components that sets the program here in Minnesota apart from those in other states.

No smoked or ingested plant

LeafLine Labs processes plants into botanical extract-based medications.  Doses of cannabinoids (THC and CBD) are formulated, standardized and tested. Medications are formulated based on researched cannabinoid and terpene data, not simply strain-based, user-experience and marketing lingo common in Colorado, Washington and other locations where smoked cannabis is most common. Here, each medication is the same every month and can be dosed accordingly.

Lab tested medication

A third party independent lab tests all medicine to ensure quality and consistency of medications, just like other pharmaceuticals.

Professional medication therapy management

Minnesota Licensed Pharmacists educated in medical cannabinoid therapy and dosing provide care for patients at every LeafLine Labs Care Center. They are specially trained and responsible for objective dosing with our various medication forms, and they are able to adjust dosing and pharmaceutical management based on a patient’s other medications and disease processes.  They can then coordinate with their patient’s physician, similar to the team-based pharmacy approach utilized in most hospitals.

All Medical Cannabis patients are in the state’s research registry

Minnesota is the first state to focus on capturing data related to all patients enrolled in the Medical Cannabis Program. The registry also functions as a checks-and-balances system to ensure patients are only receiving the medication amount that the pharmacist has approved.

Physicians (Health Care Practitioners) certify that patients have qualifying conditions, but aren’t responsible for “recommending” Medical Cannabis

Just like in the hospital inpatient or emergency department setting, physicians provide a patient’s overall medical care but coordinate with the licensed pharmacist who calculates the complex dosing and titration of this unique medicine. In Minnesota, patients must continue to see their physician in order to stay certified in the program which ensures close follow up.

Questions? We’re here to answer them for you. For more information about LeafLine Labs and the Medical Cannabis Program in Minnesota, visit our website here: http://leaflinelabs.com

My Medical Cannabis Story: A Letter From Lee

Hi,

First and foremost I want to thank everyone at LeafLine Labs for all of your life changing work you do. It is not just a job, a task for you, but a mission to help people live with less pain and more happiness.

A few weeks before I had my first dose of Heather, I was in constant pain. I suffer from severe and persistent muscle spasms, extreme pain from spinal stenosis and nerve damage. I also have fibromyalgia and was not having any luck with a variety of prescription medications. I have two beautiful little girls and I was no longer able to hold them without pain and almost immediate intense spasms. Due to narcotic pain meds, I started retaining urine and had to use a catheter. At 33, this was a crushing moment for me. I started to think about my future and what was in store for me. Was this my life going forward? NO! I refused to take 30+ pills a day to get minimal relief. I did my research and decided to pursue getting registered. I was very apprehensive and was worried about what my family would think. Within an hour of my first dose, my back spasms were gone! My pain had decreased from a 9 to a 3! When I told my family they were not only happy for me but very supportive. With a few consults with Ethan, we added the Tangerine for nighttime use and I have never felt better. I owe LeafLine Labs a lifetime of gratitude. I ask those who are hesitant about medical cannabis to do some research on how it is used in Minnesota. You will find that it is a very structured program and has actually helped many many people suffering from life crippling conditions live a much happier life. Thank you, LeafLine Labs! You folks are amazing!

Regards,

Lee

Medical Cannabis & Tourette Syndrome: TJ's Story

Meet TJ, an active 12-year-old boy who loves riding his bike, sports, and legos. In October, we had the pleasure of meeting TJ, his family, and their many furry friends - including a rabbit named Bunny Sanders. TJ is the youngest of four siblings.

TJ has a variety of medical diagnoses, including Tourette Syndrome. Due to constant physical and verbal tics, it was difficult for TJ to be in a classroom, play sports, or even relax. At times, the repeated movements from the physical tics would cause him extreme pain.

In 2015 when the Minnesota medical cannabis program began, TJ was enrolled and after consulting with a pharmacist at LeafLine Labs, started to take the medicine - his life changed completely. He went from 20-30 tics a minute to 20-30 tics per day, and also saw an incredible change in behavioral issues caused by his other diagnoses.

Today, TJ often goes months at a time free of tics. Although the medical cannabis is not a cure for his Tourette Syndrome, it has vastly improved his quality of life, as well as his family's, and has helped TJ find relief from pain.