If the recent election cycle has made one thing clear, it is that the national support on marijuana legalization and its larger place in the medical community is at an all-time high. In total, 33 states allow for medical marijuana use. 15 of those states plus Washington D.C. now offer full legalization. Even traditionally conservative strongholds like North Dakota, Mississippi and Oklahoma have recently given way to a more laisse faire attitude given their harsh and archaic penalties for marijuana possession in their respective histories.
Getting a medical marijuana card can be an overwhelming and cumbersome experience, no matter which state you live in. No complaints here; just stating the obvious.
You will hear or read words and phrases like “qualifying condition,” “supporting documentation,” “certifying physician” and wonder what does it all mean? Just like in traditional healthcare, navigating the best course of action for YOURSELF and advocating on YOUR behalf are crucial factors in obtaining access to the medical marijuana you need. A well-informed patient will have a less to worry about as they enter sometimes uncharted waters.
Customarily the onus is on the would-be patient to do all the leg work and heavy lifting necessary to obtaining their medical marijuana card. Starting with determining the proper state government department charged with administering the medical marijuana program and clicking through to about a hundred different webpages while eventually ending up more confused than when you began, the motivation to continue with the process may not be as strong after a dejecting experience such as the one just described.
It is all our good fortune that the brilliant and resilient team from Leafwell have arrived on the scene. Leafwell’s core beliefs are that cannabis is medicine and that every patient should have accessible care. They have developed a telehealth platform that is determined to cut through the red tape and help you become a medical marijuana patient as easily as possible.
The platform can connect doctors and patients helping to ease the burden on each side. Documents can be uploaded and shared compliantly, appointments can be booked, and you can confidently proceed toward become a medical marijuana patient.
Recently, the Pennsylvania Medical Marijuana Education Center (PAMMEC) had the opportunity to speak with Emily Fisher, Leafwell’s Chief Executive Officer Emily Fisher and Chief Research Officer Dipak Hemraj, to learn more about Leafwell and the resources it offers.
PAMMEC: How did you get your idea or concept for the business? What was your mission at the outset?
Leafwell: We set out to provide accessible care for each patient. We believe in the medical power of cannabis and understood the need for further research into its therapeutic benefits. With cannabis being such a versatile medication, we realized that it could potentially help millions in a healthier, safer way compared to, say, opioids and sedatives.
Another problem that we saw that needed to be addressed (and still does) is to do with first-time patients. Many people who are new to medical cannabis don’t know what to try, what dose to take, how to deal with the stigma they may face and other problems. We want to solve these problems.
Telemedicine technology has made it easier than ever to see a healthcare professional, ask your questions and qualify for cannabis. We saw that different states had different rules and regulations regarding medical marijuana qualification. We thought to ourselves, “What if we could make the process as simple as possible via telemedicine?” That was when Leafwell was born!
Our main mission was to 1) Help make medical cannabis accessible; and 2) to figure out which cannabinoids and terpenes work for which condition/s. We wanted to help people explore a more natural alternative to more addictive pharmaceuticals.
PAMMEC: What service(s) or product(s) do you offer/manufacture?
Leafwell: Leafwell connects patients to a licensed physician across every state with a medical program. We make the process of getting certified and qualifying for medical cannabis quick and easy. We provide patients ongoing support throughout their journey, and help them get to grips with using cannabis as medicine.
PAMMEC: To what do you attribute your success?
Leafwell: A mixture of hard work, grit and foresight. Putting together the right team is also extremely important. We’re a team of doctors, researchers, patients, writers, advocates and educators working towards a common goal of making medical cannabis more accessible to the millions of people who could benefit from it. Our team is purpose-led, and we’re passionate about our mission.
PAMMEC: What are your company’s goals?
Leafwell: To unlock the full potential of medical cannabis. We feel we can do this through education, research and making medical cannabis easier to access. Telemedicine technology has made this more possible than ever. As there are so many restrictions to studying the cannabis plant, we are trying to figure out how and why the plant works. We want to make medical cannabis understandable and accessible.
PAMMEC: What is unique about your business?
Leafwell: We connect patients to licensed physicians in every state with a medical program. We make it easier than ever to get certified for medical cannabis. We’re the first telehealth platform dedicated to medical cannabis.
We also apply the medical model to cannabis. We want to see how and why it works, so we can give patients and healthcare professionals the knowledge they need to navigate this space effectively.
PAMMEC: What made you choose this type of business?
Leafwell: The cannabis business chose us! We just don’t think a plant that helps so many people should be illegal.
PAMMEC: How did you get started in this business?
Emily: Health & wellness has always been a huge passion of mine. At the age of 26, I was diagnosed with breast cancer, and became interested in natural ways of healing the body. Learning about cannabis, becoming a patient and using it instead of painkillers was a game-changer for me. When I was using opioids, I couldn’t eat or sleep properly. With cannabis, I could. I feel very lucky to be doing something every day that I believe in, and that is helping people.
Dipak: I’ve been in the official cannabis industry for about 5 years, and the unofficial one for about 15 years. My interest in cannabis came from my general interest in biology and neuroscience when I was studying at college and university, where I learned about the endocannabinoid system (ECS) and the default mode network (DMN). These things weren’t known about so much at the time in the early- to mid- 2000s, and I wanted to spread the word! This eventually led me to help Emily develop Leafwell.
PAMMEC: What is the future for this type of business?
Leafwell: We believe cannabis will play an increasing role in everyday health and wellness. People’s approach to health is becoming more holistic, and cannabis fits into this role well. This is because cannabis is safer, less addictive and highly individualized. Perhaps the best way to think of cannabis as medicine is that it is a pharmacy in a plant.
There are hundreds of cannabinoids and terpenes, all with different uses and effects, both together and separately. These can theoretically be tailored to a particular individual’s endocannabinoid system and the health problems or symptoms they wish to ameliorate. Cannabinoids and terpenes are also potent anti-inflammatories, and treating inflammation is a fundamental part of treating many other conditions, from arthritis to Parkinson’s disease.
Through research and furthering our knowledge, we feel that we’ll be giving people an increasingly reliable experience.
We also expect to see greater acceptance and a greater understanding of cannabis’ medical potential. We’ll be moving away from strain names and folk medicine and into standardization of cannabis varieties and well-developed, consistent pharmaceuticals.
Due to cannabis’ safety profile, we could see a significant number of cannabinoid-based medications available in pharmacies. Cannabis can also be used to target several receptor systems (e.g. serotonin, dopamine, norepinephrine), as opposed to just single receptor systems like many current medications. We’ll see whole-plant medications of all sorts getting this sort of treatment, and not just cannabis. Black pepper, turmeric, various types of fungi and many more.
This is not to say that pharmaceuticals will be gone completely; rather that the pharmaceutical model will be applied to cannabis. Plant medications will be used to complement single-target pharmaceutical preparations, and possibly reduce our reliance on them. Using cannabis to replace or reduce painkiller intake is just the tip of the iceberg.
PAMEMC: Does the company give back to the community? In what ways?
Leafwell: We work together with patient groups. We are proud to support veterans throughout the US, and we are committed to contributing to the body of scientific research on cannabis and cannabinoid science.
Outside of the US, we have provided medical patients with extremely affordable, and at times even free, product. We have also passed on genetics to anyone who wants to grow. We want the cannabis plant to be as free and accessible as possible. We want to be able to walk past people’s gardens and see cannabis plants growing, and it to be normal and not illegal.