Marijuana is suspended in a strange legal and cultural limbo, somewhere between recreational drug, illegal Schedule I substance and legitimate herbal medicine. It’s a gray area that often makes it challenging for users to find legitimate medical advice on cannabis, its effects on the body and how to use it.
Sure, you can ask your friend Chief, but he’s just a pothead with no qualifications. You can ask your local budtender, but they’re more of a sommelier than any kind of medical professional. You can study up online, but the internet is rampant with rhetorical science, biased articles and confused opinions, so you might end up absorbing more misinformation than facts.
So what’s a cannabis user to do? If only we could dial up our primary care physician whenever we had a nagging cannabis question, or an ailment that weed could potentially treat. If only there was a medical professional on speed dial, waiting for you, ready with all the answers to your wildest canna-questions…
Enter: Leaf411, Colorado’s free cannabis hotline, staffed by trained clinical nurses who know the ups and downs, ins and outs of cannabis and how it works in the body. It’s the missing link in the cannabis legalization movement.
“We created this hotline because nothing like it existed,” says Jennifer Axcell, one of Leaf411’s co-founders. “Anybody around the country, and even outside the country, can call [844-LEAF411] for free as often as necessary and speak to a cannabis-trained medical professional and get those specific answers to those specific questions that we know everybody has.”
Whether you are brand new to the wide world of weed, a seasoned cannabis veteran or something in-between, the nurses at Leaf411 have your cannabis questions covered. The Leaf411 website describes its trained staff as “passionate” about helping people get educational support around the safe use of legal cannabis. The new hotline is utilizing a software system that runs a virtual call center that can connect nurses with callers nationwide.
The non-profit service has the potential to help a lot of people. It officially kicked off in October 2019 after Axcell and Leaf411’s other co-founder, Katherine Golden, recognized the widespread need for medically based cannabis education. At the time, both had been working for a cannabis clinician.
“That was the catalyst for Leaf411,” Axcell says. “We’re so excited to be fully operational and up and running.”
Since opening, the nurses at Leaf411 have been answering questions that span the spectrum from mild to absurd.
“We’ve had everything,” Axcell says with a chuckle. “You name it, and we’ve answered just about every type of question.”
From strain-specific inquiries to questions about first-time usage; they’ve helped people identify random pot products friends gifted them; talked people through edible-induced freak-outs; and, of course, guided people on how to use cannabis to treat pain, anxiety or depression.
“Unfortunately, our country is in pain both physically and emotionally,” Axcell says. “And so that’s usually the number one question, they’ve got either a physical pain or they’ve got an emotional pain and they want to try something that’s more plant-medicine-based.”
Since March, Leaf411 has seen an uptick in calls, Axcell says. These are stressful times, people are anxious, they’re losing sleep, and they’ve got the free time to try something new to treat their symptoms, she explains.
But the service doesn’t just serve cannabis users. During the recent state-wide shutdown for COVID-19, the nurses at Leaf411 helped cannabis dispensaries fine-tune sanitation protocols, answered questions about proper medical mask and glove use, and guided dispensaries on how to best protect employees throughout the pandemic.
“We’re just trying to do our part, specifically from the medical-professional side of things to support our industry, support our communities and be available for anyone who needs us,” Axcell says.