Becoming a Patient

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

How to Talk to Your Doctor About Medical Cannabis

Minnesota Medical Cannabis Program Background

In Minnesota, we have established the most rigorous and “medical” law to date. There is no smoking in the program, and we do not classify our medicine by cheeky strain names. We also do not keep plants in jars. All medicine is created using a pharmaceutical process and is independently tested following state mandates. Licensed pharmacists who are trained experts at cannabinoid dosing are responsible for determining the best combination of medical cannabis types and forms, as well as dose amount. Pharmacists can coordinate with doctors to keep everyone on the same page.

A prominent problem patients face is that most doctors are not even aware of the state program’s details (or even that it exists at all). Many doctors do not see cannabis as truly medical, and they still believe that “medical” is just a code word for legalization.  Few know that cannabinoid preparations were the second most prescribed pharmaceutical in the late 1800s, or that the American Medical Association (AMA) advocated for keeping cannabis a medicine just 80 years ago.

5 tips of Advice from Gary Starr

As knowledge is power, we consulted our Chief Medical Officer, Gary Starr MD, to compile a list of advice and resources to educate and empower you in preparing to have this crucial conversation with your doctor.

  1. “Your doctor is likely not aware of the benefits of medical cannabis. Medical school and residency have not included medical cannabis in the curriculum.  Your doctor’s viewpoint is more likely influenced by decades of political rhetoric. Once you find a doctor you trust, ask him or her to objectively and compassionately learn about how medical cannabis is an option for you and may improve your quality of life. You’ll need to guide them towards the educational resources they may be unaware of (see the list provided below).
  2. Be scientific. Know your data, your disease process and the way that medical cannabis has been used to treat it, and the research studies that support your point (don’t be afraid to bring them with you.)  Patients with the most success in managing their complex diseases and symptoms tend to be scientific about their disorders, even if they use alternative medical therapies too.
  3. Most doctors speak in terms of data. There are many doctors who do not believe there is any data to support the use of medical cannabis.  That is because, as explained above, they often don’t know that this data exists.  They learned to say “there’s no data” from someone who learned the same words the same way before them.  It’s likely going to be up to you to introduce your doctor to the data (see #4).
  4. Gently educate; raise the medical cannabis topic after you have developed a good flow to your conversation. Be kind and personable.  Doctors often do not react well to patients “telling them” how to practice medicine.  This may seem unfair when they do not know anything about medical cannabis, but it is your health and wellbeing, so it is up to you to use good communication strategies that work.  Many doctors will be willing to listen to your data and take an interest in learning more if you present it to them in the right way.
    1. Stick to your point. No matter how kind you are, your doctor is still only able to give you 10-15 minutes of time before their next patient.
    2. Tell a story.  Do not just list all of your symptoms. Talk about your illness and how you’ve attempted to treat it.  Discuss how this has made you feel. Remember, you are a patient who needs care, not a customer expecting to get the item you came to buy.  
    3. Discuss your goals. Consider using other local patient success stories to illustrate your points, but be clear and prepared to discuss how and why you feel medical cannabis is appropriate for you specifically. In Minnesota, the state’s registry data has recently been published, showing a majority of patients realizing benefit with medical cannabis treatment. Bring this data and other supporting studies and summaries with you to give to your doctor.
    4. REFRAIN from using recreational cannabis terms to argue your point. AVOID using data from sources on the web that focus on plant strains or different ways of experimenting with cannabis dosing.  Unless your doctor is already supportive of this, it is very likely that this will decrease your credibility.  Most doctors are not impressed with uncontrolled, federally persecuted, smoked plant matter as a medicine.  Do not try to get them to speak that language.
    5. If you can, highlight how one of your goals with medical cannabis is to decrease the use of other medications which cause worse side effects and are not working well for you, such as opiates for treating chronic pain. One thing many doctors are afraid of is “drug seeking”.  If you discuss your desire to decrease opiate or other controlled medication use, it greatly diminishes the fear of “drug seeking”. This will get their attention.
    6. Know the law in your state backwards and forwards. Bring printed material to walk your doctor through the process (see below). Many doctors are afraid of the topic and do not realize they are not writing any prescriptions. They may be unaware–in Minnesota specifically–that another licensed medical professional (pharmacist) is educated in dosing cannabinoid based medicines along with your other medications.
    7. Bring a friend or family member to your appointment. He or she can be your advocate. Whoever you bring should have the same knowledge (see above) as you so he or she can help you keep the discussion focused and on track.
    8. Know the facts about medical cannabis safety, addiction risks, and limitations. Acknowledging these points in your discussion may increase your credibility on the topic.  Doctors are often suspicious of anything that has “no bad side”, so being honest and knowledgeable about a treatment’s negative aspects will help them hear you and at the same time probably teach them something.
  5. If your doctor continues to object to the discussion, or is against certifying you for medical cannabis use, you may be prepared for some “say-it-like-it-is” arguments.  Try to avoid using these unless it seems like a little extra nudge is needed. For example:
    1. “If I was dying…” Your doctor is your best advocate for helping you heal with compassion.  If they would certify you if you were “dying”, why are they holding back as you try to live?  Where is the line?  How close to dying is “ok”?  Many doctors will not have thought through this and it will make them begin to consider it.
    2. “Would you refer me to…”.  There are a lot of things some doctors do not believe in personally, but they would not prevent you from trying. If your doctor had to refer you to an acupuncture therapist before you could see them, would they refuse? …even if they didn’t understand how acupuncture therapy works? In general, most doctors would not refuse this even they did not know anything about acupuncture. Why actively refuse to certify you as eligible to use medical cannabis, then? Any response to this question either highlights their moral objection (which is not sound medical practice), their lack of knowledge (back to the top), or their fear of legal risk (lack of knowledge).

I encourage you to use some of the following resources to prepare yourself.

Be well,

Gary Starr, MD & Chief Medical Officer at LeafLine Labs

Resources

State Law Resources

http://www.health.state.mn.us/topics/cannabis/rulemaking/index.html

Patient Checklist

https://static1.squarespace.com/static/5923984ce3df28823044715d/t/59494e5336e5d3af64ba27b2/1497976404530/HCP_Checklist+.pdf

Minnesota Office of Medical Cannabis Data

http://www.health.state.mn.us/topics/cannabis/about/stats.html