Cannabis is an exciting albeit challenging industry. Federal prohibition and deeply rooted stigmas mean it’s often misunderstood. This is especially true when it comes to the medicinal, healing properties of cannabis.

Enter Leaf411 — a one-of-a-kind service offering cannabis education, resources, and insights, one phone call at a time. Pioneered by Katherine Golden, whose personal story inspired her interest in making more people aware of the medicinal healing properties of cannabis, Leaf411 is a cannabis nurse hotline that has taken calls from people around the world. Leaf411’s Chief Nursing Officer, Eloise Theisen shared similar aspirations to Golden, particularly when it came to offering people a more comprehensive, evidence-backed understanding of how cannabis can be used to treat a variety of ailments.

Inspired by the theme of this year’s Women’s History Month as set by The National Women’s History Alliance, “Providing Healing, Promoting Hope,” we caught up with Golden and Theisen to learn more about how their work is inspiring healing and promoting hope in the cannabis industry and beyond.

ForceBrands: Tell us first about what inspired your journey into cannabis?

Eloise Theisen: I had many cancer patients who were curious about incorporating cannabis into their regimens. Many did not even know where to start. I wanted patients to have safe access and professional guidance so I started my practice in 2014.

Katherine Golden: When you meet people passionate about cannabis and its potential, there’s typically a personal story as to why and it’s the same for me. In 2016, My brother-in-law was suddenly diagnosed with stage 4 lung cancer, in his 40s, two kids in high school, and given 2-5 years to live. A pulmonary oncologist mentioned experimenting with cannabis, but only as a last-ditch effort since “no one knows anything about it.” Due to the hype about the plant here in Colorado, I decided to look into the validity of this potential treatment and because I was a nurse, I knew what resources to go to for evidence-based information. I was shocked about how much actual lab and animal research was out there that proved the medicinal powers of cannabis. I was then frustrated that medical professionals were not informed about it.

FB: How did the idea for Leaf411 — Colorado’s first cannabis nurse hotline — come to be?
KG: As I jumped into educating myself about the plant to help guide my brother-in-law’s treatment, I wondered about everyone else who may not have a nurse in their family. Where do they go to get all their questions answered about their specific ailments? Where do they get medical resources and evidence-based information? Who can they talk to about cannabis use without judgment? I wanted it to be a phone line (albeit antiquated in these times), but I wanted to ensure anyone — no matter where you lived or if you had a smartphone or computer — had easy access to affordable healthcare guidance from a trusted nurse. 

FB: Who is your target demographic and how are you reaching them and educating them about the healing powers of cannabis? 
ET + KG: Our target audience is anyone and everyone who is using or wants to learn how to use cannabis safely and effectively. We want the public to know they have access to registered nurses who are knowledgeable in cannabinoid sciences as well as their health conditions. 

FB: What’s one of the biggest misconceptions about the medicinal properties of cannabis?
ET: That THC is recreational or not medicinal. THC has many medicinal properties and can be crucial in treating many ailments. Most people are afraid of the “high” that comes from THC. With proper education and guidance, consumers can use THC safely and effectively without adverse effects.

KG: Agreed! The second is that you must smoke it. So many consumers, even experienced, have no idea how many different routes of administration are available to them. Inhalation is important for a few ailments but other methods that offer longer effects in your body are key for around-the-clock symptom management.

FB: Leaf411 is a nonprofit and a cannabis educational resource. How do you foresee the company evolving as it relates to its services?
KG: The evolution of Leaf411 would include expanding our mission of tackling healthcare inequality. We plan to do this by providing expanded nurse guidance services to include a 24/7 hotline, scheduled calls, chats, and email and text services. We already have people reaching out to us from other countries so I would love to be able to meet their needs in their time zones as well. Another way we will tackle healthcare inequality is by expanding our Affordability Program which will provide donated products for free or for a significantly reduced price to the consumer in need. Cannabis is now being incorporated into our public’s daily routine for better health, but medical appointments, medical cards, and medicine are all out-of-pocket expenses. Our public is pleading for affordable cannabis healthcare, and we are trying to meet those needs every single day.

FB: You both are truly Female Forces — you’re trailblazers as women leading an exciting new industry. Are there more leadership opportunities for women in cannabis? Would you encourage women in other traditionally male-dominated consumer industries to transition into the space?
ET: Cannabis nursing is definitely a new industry. Nursing has been traditionally female-dominated so it has been interesting to work in a male-dominated industry that is not healthcare. Nothing about being in the cannabis space is easy and that doesn’t have anything to do with gender. We face more obstacles than other industries because of federal prohibition and the stigma. The good news is that there are lots of opportunities to create something new and lay the groundwork. Being an entrepreneur can be exciting and unpredictable as well as incredibly rewarding. I think nurses and women inherently have the skills needed to be successful in leadership roles.

KG: Absolutely, yes — there are more leadership opportunities for women in cannabis and I would encourage them to transition into this space.

We’ve seen a lot of comments, especially this month honoring women’s history, stating they wish the cannabis boys club mentality didn’t exist. The way we can rectify this culture is by encouraging women in other industries to break into the cannabis industry where the data shows an increasing number of women are becoming consumers.

Women are the caretakers of children, husbands, family members, and friends so it makes complete sense that women are the main purchasers of health and wellness products. These female leaders can help educate and give additional insight to their male counterparts on how we think, feel, and expect to be treated as a consumer, therefore yielding higher profitability for the companies they lead. 

FB: Although Leaf411 is designed to serve the Colorado market, you’ve received calls from around the world. Where are you seeing the most interest and for what causes?
KG: Leaf411 is actually a national nonprofit organization. We are based in Colorado but we have nurses and board members in other states. We knew from day one that we needed to be able to field calls from all states, including non-legal market states since consumers are driving or moving to those legal markets to purchase cannabis. Unfortunately, what we hear on our calls is that the world is in pain — both physical and mental. People are interested in consuming cannabis for a better quality of life. They are looking to manage their chronic pain due to an array of ailments, and they’re wanting to decrease their mental pain which includes anxiety, PTSD, and depression. Almost everyone who calls our nurses is looking for unbiased information about incorporating cannabis into their healthcare regimen. They want to know if it’s safe or not. They want to know if they are consuming too much. They want to know which products to choose from and where they can safely purchase from. 

FB: Where do you see Leaf411 in the next 3-5 years?
KG: We would love to see Leaf411 become the service that every healthcare facility (insurance company, hospitals, clinics, private practice) and industry HR uses to outsource cannabis education for their employees, patients, members, or clients. Cannabis is part of our landscape now and non-judgemental evidence-based education for all is a way to ensure people around the world consume responsibly.

Learn more about Leaf411 here.