Keeping up with the latest healthcare trends can be difficult, but you’ve been living in a cave for the past five years if you didn’t know that the use of medical marijuana is taking some states by storm. One of the most recent states to give in to the undeniable elixir is Minnesota, where the medical use of marijuana has been legal for less than a year, and companies like Leafline Labs are in full bloom.
Leafline Labs and the Medical Marijuana Industry
Leafline Labs is a company that was founded by a group of physicians whose mission strives to end the unnecessary suffering of some of their patients. Leafline treats patients who are suffering from debilitating ailments such as epilepsy, cancer, HIV/AIDS, ALS, Crohn’s disease, Glaucoma, Tourette’s, Multiple Sclerosis and more, by providing them cannabis through various forms of medication. Patients are prescribed extract only medical cannabis in the forms of capsules, syrups and suspensions, oils for vaporization along with tinctures and sublingual sprays. Type of medication is typically decided in a consultation and based on the needs of the individual, along with recommendations from physicians and experts at Leafline.
Understanding this new healthcare trend can be tricky, so we sat down with Colin Kelley, the SVP of Finance and Development at Leafline Labs, and he filled us in on everything that physicians, and the general public, need to know about the use of medical marijuana.
The Pros, Cons & Truth Behind Medical Marijuana
The controversy surrounding the use of cannabis to treat medical disorders is nothing new, but as people begin to understand the treatment, and stop overthinking the common misconceptions, more and more states are beginning to pass medical marijuana laws. Here’s a brief overview of the pros and cons of this industry.
Let’s start with the opposition, first. Kelley explains that the main argument against the use of medical marijuana is essentially based around a lack of research. Despite the fact that human beings have been using marijuana for one thing or another for thousands of years, scientists have only just begun to study the long term effects it may have on people. Not knowing long term effects of any medication is enough to keep a lot of patients from wanting to consume it, but the idea that marijuana is a natural plant, and there are extremely strict growing requirements, is enough to calm the nerves of some.
The list of “pros” for medical marijuana continues to grow as physicians and patients learn more about the medication, but here are a few of the major ones:
- Marijuana is natural. While recreational marijuana may have add-ins that cause many to believe it is dangerous, Kelley explained that there are incredibly strict rules and restrictions for medical marijuana to ensure not only that it is safe, but that patients are getting exactly what they need each time they refill a prescription.
- Medical cannabis is a safe alternative to many other prescription drugs. “The CDC literally called America’s addiction to opioids an epidemic,” explains Kelley, and he couldn’t have been more right. In 2014 alone, more than 25,000 people in the United States died of an opioid overdose. Medical marijuana is a great way to combat this epidemic, considering many of the patients that receive opioid prescriptions are candidates for medical marijuana.
- Marijuana is inexpensive. Medical cannabis is only a fraction of the price of many opioids and other prescriptions that a medical marijuana candidate may be prescribed to, which ultimately, will save insurance companies a lot of money. As of now, says Kelley, most insurance companies aren’t on board, and patients typically have to pay for medical cannabis out of pocket.
- Cannabis has limited side effects. Unlike the lengthy list of side effects of opioids (nausea, dizziness, sedation, constipation, dependency, tolerance, etc.), medical marijuana is developed at the perfect dosage for the individual so that they are still able to work, drive and feel like themselves.
So, what does the legalization of medical marijuana mean to physicians? Well, just like in any controversial topic, many physicians are on board, while others are still skeptical. In states like Minnesota, physicians have had an overall positive response to medical marijuana, with over 500 physicians enrolling in less than a year, says Kelley. “Minnesota has had the highest medical marijuana adoption rate in the country,” he explains, “and specialty physicians are typically more inclined to enroll.” The idea that oncologists, neurologists and other specialty physicians are taking advantage of this new medical trend comes as no surprise, due to the fact that their patients are the most likely candidates for medical marijuana. While there is no current research to prove whether or not patients prefer physicians that prescribe cannabis, some evidence supports that practices become more popular after adapting.
The Future of Medical Cannabis
The future of the medical marijuana industry is seemingly bright, but it’s still got a very long way to go before all 50 states adapt to legalizing the plant for strictly medical reasons. “There are so many challenges in doing it right,” explains Kelley, “the legal aspect, banking… but it’s truly worth it when you think about the patients you’re helping.” And help, it does.
Kelley recalled the miraculous improvement in a 9-year-old girl who had been wheelchair bound due to severe epilepsy. The young girl was suffering from over 100 seizures per day, and wouldn’t speak or make eye contact with those surrounding her. Upon being prescribed an appropriate dosage of medical cannabis, the girl was able to wean off of over 20 medications that had been stunting her brain growth, and within weeks was making tremendous progress with walking, talking and other social skills. While many may argue with the ethics behind medical cannabis, it’s hard to disagree with situations like that.
Kelley, like many others that have seen first-hand how medical cannabis can help a patient, believes that in five to seven years, once the nation has seen the results it wants, marijuana will be legalized across the U.S. for strictly medical reasons. If Kelley’s prediction is right, the United States may be on it’s way to appreciating a more natural sense of treating patients, but until then, we’ll continue to extensively research the medical use of marijuana, and be hopeful in the idea that medical cannabis helps individuals in need.