For years, nurse Katherine Golden held definite opinions on marijuana---in any form. She was against it. But she wasn’t just against it, she said. “I was extremely judgmental about it. I believed all the negative information about it.” Her antipathy about marijuana---both medical and recreational---were in large part the result of bad experiences with it as a younger person, a not uncommon story. Then, something happened, something close to home.
“My brother-in-law was diagnosed with lung cancer,” she said. The family was devastated. He was an otherwise healthy person and non-smoker. Medical options for relieving the pain and discomfort of lung cancer patients usually involve protocols that might cure or slow the disease but few that provide any real relief from the often debilitating discomfort of the treatments, including chemotherapy. Then something else happened. A physician suggested to her brother-in-law, “We may look into cannabis as a last resort but we no nothing about it”
That moment forced Golden to put aside any bad experiences, any preconceived notions about pot and dig deeper into the science of what for most of the 20thcentury had been not only a controversial substance but also an illegal one. “I wanted to see the black and white science of cannabis,” said Golden. Her deep dive into the plant and its properties changed her mind and her life. Golden is now co-founder and CEO of Leaf411, a non-profit that addresses issues about medical and recreational marijuana. Medical cannabis has been legal in Colorado since voters approved Amendment 20 in 2000. Recreational marijuana became legal twelve years later.
Today, organizations like Golden’s have programs that serve all demographics and are philanthropically supported by leaders in the cannabis industry like Lightshade. Lightshade operates eight for profit retail stores across the metro area. All customers must be at least age 21.
Every single day, from eight a.m. to eleven p.m. customers come and go at the Federal Heights Lightshade location. Any preconceived notions about how the product is sold are quickly dispelled once inside. The location could easily pass as a doctor’s or dental office. The environment is spotless and customer friendly. You are greeted professionally, and once ID is provided, customers are cleared to enter the sales room where budtenders, sales associates, answer any questions a customer might have.
The recreational side of the business is self-explanatory. Still, sales associates are trained to explain the various potencies of each product. Customers seeking to buy medical cannabis also get answers for what ails them. It could be a variety of issues. Golden says medical cannabis is a palliative for a whole array of health conditions. “It could be stress, a chronic condition, bowel related, intestinal related. Our body, when we have inflammation, is fighting something.” Budtenders will advise customers in a general way about what product might be best for their condition but do not, she stresses, offer medical advice.
Sales associates will, however, discuss what strain of cannabis might work best for any variety of conditions including migraine headaches, PTSD, or arthritis. But research has shown cannabis has properties that offer varying degrees of relief for patients dealing with ALS, Parkinson’s and more. While medical cannabis is usually sold in leaf or plant form, it can also be administered as a topical, for vaping and as an ingredient in food. It is not a cure, said Golden. It is for relief. “We have lost so much time,” said Golden. “But we’re figuring it out.”
Colorado, Hawaii and Nevada were the first states to pass legalized medical marijuana laws. Today, 33 states and the District of Columbia have laws allowing medical or recreational pot. But prices vary between medicinal and recreational products. Medical cannabis, which requires authorization for a doctor in Colorado, is less expensive because patients do not incur the same taxes as recreational. The price difference can sometimes be as much as 25 percent.
The most important value Lightshade gains with supporting Leaf411’s mission is guiding their customers to Leaf411’s confidential hotline, which is staffed by cannabis-trained nurses. A team of professionals is on duty to answer questions and concerns that people might need answered. Lightshade does not provide medical advice, but they have the resources to point their customers in the right direction. The FREE phone number to speak to a Leaf411 nurse is 844-LEAF411 or 844-532-3411.
While the marijuana industry has boomed across Colorado and the nation, it remains rife with detractors, including those opposed to medical cannabis. They say extended use can negatively affect long-term memory, that smoking anything is unhealthy, that ingredients in cannabis may contain carcinogenic substances, that driving under the influence is a public danger and that it may also lead to abuse and addiction.
Golden says as a veteran registered nurse, she has taken the time to research the product thoroughly. She and with whom she works, from business partners to nurses to those who staff the shops where the product is sold, counsel customers on any and all of these arguments. She remains confident in the plant. Also, Golden’s brother-in-law who was diagnosed with Stage 4 lung cancer, while not being given a completely clean bill of health, remains a cancer survivor. He continues on a medically advised regimen to treat his illness and also continues to self-medicate with medical cannabis.
While medical cannabis is legal in 33 states and the District of Columbia, there are still detractors. Golden is most assuredly no longer one. “There are products on grocery store shelves that have lethal doses,” she said. “Cannabis doesn’t.”
Users, including older Americans who now are the fastest growing demographic for this product, have resources for safe use which include the Leaf411 FREE nurse hotline and a dispensary like Lightshade that prides itself on excellent customer service.