Standing in Solidarity With Nurses and Other Frontline Workers

How Leaf411 is Helping With the COVID-19 Response

Medically reviewed by Katherine Golden, RN
Written by Denise Gonzalez-Walker

Back in early January, we planned the month of March to highlight nurses—especially cannabis nurses—on our blog. The World Health Organization (WHO) designated 2020 as the year of the nurse, and we were eager to highlight the incredible work being done by our Leaf nurses as well as other nurses working in the cannabis space.

Little did we know that an emerging novel virus, COVID-19, was poised to rapidly spread across the world, touching every aspect of life. 

Now, many of us are doing our part to “flatten the curve” by staying at home and limiting close contact with anyone outside of our immediate household. For our Leaf nurses on the hotline, that means working from home.

Not everyone has the option to work remotely, however.

A hospital nurse wearing a face mask puts on gloves to protect herself while caring for COVID-19 patients.

Acknowledging the Work of Nurses and Healthcare Professionals

Today, we’re acknowledging the healthcare professionals, including nurses, who are already on the front lines providing care to COVID-19 patients, often in stressful environments with limited resources. Many other nurses stand ready, waiting in the wings to help as COVID-19 hospitalizations rise.

One of the best ways you can help healthcare workers is by doing your part to flatten the curve. Limit your exposure to other people, even if you feel well. 

You can also check out this link for other ideas on supporting nurses who are working long hours on the front lines.

How Leaf411 Hotline Nurses Are Helping to Increase Capacity

Our Leaf nurses are helping to take pressure off the hospitals and primary care clinics by opening up our free Leaf411 hotline (1-844-LEAF411) to your COVID-19 questions. Our nurses’ backgrounds extend far beyond cannabis nursing, with clinical and hospital experience.

We cannot provide diagnoses or order tests—that falls outside of our scope of practice as RNs. However, we can point you to the best resources based on your specific concerns and needs. We’re also able to answer general questions about COVID-19 and provide context for the emerging research and recommendations.

Check out our Leaf library as well for resources like general guidelines for reducing risk of infection as well as Dr. Dave’s input on cannabis and coronavirus.

Of course, we’re still available to answer your cannabis questions, too. With dispensaries switching to online ordering and curbside pickup, consumers will no longer be able to chat with budtenders about different cannabis products.  

For example, if you’re switching from smokable cannabis to edibles or tinctures, we can provide guidance to help make that transition as successful as possible.

Recognizing All the Frontline Workers Providing Essential Services

We also want to recognize other non-healthcare frontline workers who keep essential services up and running. This includes employees at grocery stores, distribution centers, gas stations and restaurants, as well as delivery drivers and truck drivers.

States and cities are designating marijuana dispensaries as “essential” as well, recognizing that many people rely on cannabis medicine to manage health conditions like pain, nausea and PTSD. While we’re thrilled about this designation, we also know it means that dispensary employees take on increased risk to maintain our access to safe, legally-compliant cannabis. To help out dispensaries, Leaf411 developed Preparedness Plans which we’re sharing with both member and non-member dispensaries through the end of the month.

We’re Ready to Help With Your Questions

Our Leaf nurses are available to answer your questions, whether you’re a clinician, dispensary representative or member of the public. Call us for FREE at 844-LEAF411 (844-532-3411).

The Leaf411 cannabis nurse hotline provides free, anonymous education and directional support to the general public about the safe use of legal cannabis. We partner with select business members who meet our rigorous standards to extend our education and outreach efforts.


The State of Cannabis Nursing

Medically reviewed by Katherine Golden, RN
Written by Denise Gonzalez-Walker

We often remind you that Leaf411 hotline is staffed by cannabis-trained nurses.

But what exactly does “cannabis-trained nurse” mean? A lot of people have no idea that cannabis nurses even exist!

As part of our series on nurses this month, we’re sharing the state of cannabis nursing in the U.S. Whether you’re a patient or a registered nurse (RN) interested in pursuing cannabis training, you’re sure to learn something new.

Cannabis nurse explains medication interactions to a woman holding a prescription bottle.

How Cannabis Nurses Help Patients

You’ve likely had a nurse help you with medication-related questions before. Now imagine if a nurse could provide the same type of guidance on using cannabis to manage health conditions.

In fact, cannabis nursing is a thing!

Cannabis nurses complete specialized education on the human endocannabinoid system and cannabis as medicine.

They use this knowledge along with their years of clinical experience to help guide your decisions around using marijuana (cannabis containing >0.3% THC, which is sold legally in dispensaries), or cannabidiol (CBD) hemp products that are federally legal and sold in retail stores and online.

Cannabis nurses can help you save money and time by suggesting general types of products that may work best for your health concern. For example, if you’re dealing with inflammation pain, a cannabis nurse might suggest a specific CBD:THC ratio based on clinical guidelines and evidence.

Red phone on blue table with sticky note that says “Hotline!” as a reminder for the free Leaf411 cannabis nurse hotline.

Where can you find a cannabis-trained nurse? The free Leaf411 hotline is a great place to start!

You can speak to a cannabis-trained RN at no cost via our hotline: 844-LEAF411 (844-532-3411).

The Bigger Picture: Cannabis and The American Nurses Association

The American Nurses Association (ANA) is the largest nursing association in the United States, with over 4 million nurse members. They’ve supported the need for research and evidence-based use of cannabis since 1996!

In their latest position statement (2016), the ANA advocates for reclassification of cannabis so it’s no longer considered a Schedule I controlled substance by the federal government. This change would make clinical research on cannabis’s medicinal benefits much easier.

The ANA also supports development of dosing/recommendation standards, along with legal protections for both patients who use cannabis therapeutically and for the clinicians who discuss or recommend cannabis.

Not all nurses are up-to-date on the potential therapeutic value of cannabis. However, many nurses are hearing more each day from patients who have benefited from using cannabis to manage health conditions. As awareness grows, interest grows as well.

The American Cannabis Nurses Association

The American Cannabis Nurses Association (ACNA) is a national organization dedicated to expanding the knowledge base of endo-cannabinoid therapeutics among nurses. It was formed in 2006 by several nurses who were involved in the Patients Out of Time Fourth National Clinical Conference on Cannabis Therapeutics. These dedicated nurses saw the need for an organization to bring nurses together in a collegial and informational capacity to discuss the growing use of cannabis in medicine.

The ACNA’s ultimate goal is to develop specialty recognition for cannabis nursing, in the same way that other nursing specialties are recognized by the American Nurses Credentialing Center (ANCC), which is a division of the American Nurses Association (ANA).

To date there are over 1,300 nurse members who proudly follow the ACNA’s scope and standards of practice of the emerging role of the cannabis nurse in the United States. The standards of any specialty area of nursing are built upon the foundation of standards of practice expected of all registered nurses (Mariano, 2015) and cannabis nursing is no exception to this rule.

Two three ring binders with words “Regulations” and “Guidelines,” along with a page of regulations in the foreground.

Creating Nursing Guidelines for Medical Marijuana

Professional organizations are also developing guidelines for nurses to use when suggesting CBD hemp or medical marijuana as a treatment option. This work is being undertaken by the National Council of State Boards of Nursing (NCSBN) which developed the National Nursing Guidelines for Medical Marijuana.

The NCSBN guidelines set six principles of essential knowledge for cannabis nurses:

  1. Working knowledge of the current state of legalization of medical and recreational cannabis use.
  2. Working knowledge of the jurisdiction’s (state/local) medical marijuana laws and regulations.
  3. Understanding of the endocannabinoid system and how cannabinoids (THC, CBD and others) interact with the endocannabinoid system receptors.
  4. Understanding of cannabis pharmacology and the research associated with the medical use of cannabis.
  5. Capacity to identify safety considerations for patient use of cannabis.
  6. Ability to approach patients without judgment regarding their choice of treatment or preferences in managing pain or other health symptoms.

We share these guidelines so that you can see how cannabis nursing is actually a serious endeavor, going far beyond the typical budtender or non-clinician’s knowledge!

It makes sense for professional organizations like the NCSBN to develop guidelines for medical marijuana, because several pharmaceutical marijuana products are already on the market, such as cannabidiol-based Epidiolex, as well as several synthetic marijuana drugs designed to reduce nausea, including Marinol and Syndros.

But all cannabis products, synthetic or full-plant, are not created equal, so nurses need to be familiar with the benefits and shortcomings of both. 

In addition, clinicians are aware that many of their patients use cannabis either recreationally or for therapeutic purposes. While cannabis has fewer side effects than many pharmaceuticals, there are precautions that patients should be aware of, especially around potential medication interactions.

So how do nurses and other clinicians gain medically-sound knowledge about cannabis?

Open journal and pen, with open laptop and a cup of tea in background. Laptop screen represents online cannabis education.

The Need for Cannabis Education is Growing

As cannabis legalization expands across states, there’s increasing demand for education designed for growers, manufacturers, dispensary workers and medical professionals.

The Medical Cannabis Institute (TMCI) partnered with the ACNA to create the “Medical Cannabis Curriculum for Nurses” which addresses the National Nursing Guidelines for Medical Marijuana. All our Leaf411 hotline nurses have completed the TMCI program.

In addition to our nurses being members of ACNA and having completed TMCI training, Leaf411 has partnered with Radicle Health for additional education. All Leaf411 nurses have completed Radicle Health’s “Cannabis Therapeutics for Nurses/Medical Professionals” course.

Radicle Health and TMCI are helping to lead the way for clinicians to integrate knowledge of the endocannabinoid system and cannabis into their practice. As more nurses and doctors become aware of the professional resources that exist, we anticipate that demand for cannabis clinician training will continue to grow.

Leaf411’s Perspective on the Future of Cannabis Nursing

The nursing profession holds that health is a universal right, which includes access to health care and education concerning the prevention of health issues. In the words of the American Nurses Association, “It is the shared responsibility of professional nursing organizations to speak for nurses collectively in shaping health care and to promulgate change for the improvement of health and health care” (ANA, 2015).

At Leaf411, we believe cannabis nursing is a viable, emerging specialty. With the ongoing support of national organizations like the ANA and ACNA, we can move forward confidently caring for our public as we do in any other specialty. 

Interested in becoming a cannabis nurse? We offer tips and resources at this link.

Get Help With Your Cannabis Questions

Our Leaf nurses combine nursing expertise with specialized knowledge of the medicinal benefits of cannabis, providing balanced, research-based information and support. Call us for FREE at 844-LEAF411 (844-532-3411).

The Leaf411 cannabis nurse hotline provides free, anonymous education and directional support to the general public about the safe use of legal cannabis. We partner with select business members who meet our rigorous standards to extend our education and outreach efforts.


Recognizing Leaf411 Nurses During the Year of the Nurse

Medically reviewed by Katherine Golden, RN
Written by Denise Gonzalez-Walker

Have you ever wondered who answers the calls to the Leaf411 hotline? 

We’re proud to say that all our hotline calls are answered by fully-licensed registered nurses (RNs) who’ve completed specialized cannabis clinician training. Our nurses are also members of American Cannabis Nurses Association (ACNA).

This month, as part of the Year of the Nurse, we’re focusing on the pioneering nurses working in the cannabis space, including the nurses who answer your calls to the hotline! 

Keep reading to hear directly from our nurses and learn more about the ways they can help with your questions.

2020 Is the Year of the Nurse and Midwife

Early in 2019, the World Health Organization (WHO) announced that 2020 would be the Year of the Nurse and Midwife.

In recognition of the Year of the Nurse, we chose the month of March to put a spotlight on the profession that touches the public everyday though our hotline and outreach programs.

Who Do You Trust with Your Health Questions?

For the past 18 years, nurses have topped the list of most trusted professionals in the United States, according to an annual Gallup poll. Nurses’ honesty and high ethical standards are the reasons for those continued high rankings. 

We also think that our ability to listen (bedside manner) and how we work together with patients, their loved ones and their entire clinical care team is another reason nurses are held in high regard.

Nervous About Your Cannabis Questions? Here’s What Our Nurses Wish You Knew

We recently asked two of our Leaf nurses to share their perspectives on Leaf411’s hotline and community education events. Note: We’re using anonymized initials for both nurses.*

“We are non-judgmental. We’re here to help and give you as much accurate information as possible.” explains R.W., one of the hotline nurses. “We interpret for doctors every day. We can interpret (the medical cannabis research) for you, too.”

D.J., another of our hotline nurses, adds, “I would invite anyone to look around our website if they don’t feel comfortable speaking with one of us just yet.”

Leaf411 offers several online resources, including our Leaf Library, Member Directory and our blog. We also offer an online chat function that can translate just about any language during our hotline hours, from Tuesday-Saturday 10:00 am-8:00 pm MST. You can find the chat button on the Leaf411.org homepage.

Sitting man looks at laptop computer screen with puzzled expression and hand on chin. Photo by Bruce Mars/Unsplash

How a Cannabis Nurse’s Advice is Different than a Budtender’s Advice

You may be wondering how a call to the Leaf411 hotline is different from simply researching your question online or asking a budtender for advice on a health issue. 

While budtenders have expertise in the products their dispensary carries, they are not clinical providers. In fact, the law prevents budtenders from providing specific medical recommendations to dispensary customers.

On the other hand, our cannabis nurses have the licensing, clinical background and training to provide individualized medical guidance. However, while our nurses understand the science supporting cannabis, they are not experts in the thousands of different products out there on the market.

In other words, our nurses are not here to sell you a specific product or to convince you to try cannabis. Instead, our mission is to provide the education and resources to guide you in making the best choice, based on your health needs and your budget. We are 100% patient and public advocates.

A cannabis nurse wearing a headset smiles while talking to a patient on the phone. Photo by lilibella/Adobe

Empowering Patients with Education and Resources Through the Leaf411 Hotline

When someone calls the hotline, “We take things one step at a time,” D.J. explains. “We take time to discuss with the caller what their goals are.”

“For example, if they’re having insomnia, we can discuss a higher THC product which is good for nighttime,” she says. “If they’re having issues with pain throughout the day, we can talk about starting off with a non-intoxicating CBD product in the morning that contains little or no THC.”

“By taking it one step at a time, we can make it not so overwhelming. That way, the caller can go into a dispensary with more confidence,” she says.

“It’s really about empowering the consumer to be able to walk in (a store or dispensary) and know, ‘Here’s what I’m looking for. Here’s what I don’t want, and here’s what I do want,’” D.J. says.

By knowing your goals and understanding which types of products might help most, you can be more confident shopping for marijuana and CBD hemp products, quickly finding something that will be successful for your specific needs.

Our Nurses Are Passionate About Providing Medically-Sound Cannabis Information

R.W. already had over a decade’s worth of experience as an RN when she began studying cannabis’s therapeutic benefits. Like many clinicians, she was motivated to look at the research after seeing family members, friends and patients struggle with pain and treatment-related nausea.

Through her help at Leaf411 community-based events, R.W. sees the value of the work she does.

“I get to see how valuable this service is, and how badly it’s needed. People are able to call and get information (about cannabis) for free. That’s phenomenal!” R.W. says. 

She notes that some cannabis clinicians charge upwards of $300 per hour for the same level of service that Leaf411 provides to the public for free.

“Knowing how many people are interested (in cannabis) and experimenting on their own, we can’t leave it to Joe Blow to answer their questions. As wonderful as cannabis is, there are interactions with certain medications and important considerations people need to be aware of. There needs to be someone who can speak to those things,” R.W. says.

As a clinician herself, R.W. knows that many general practitioners are unaware of the research and guidelines supporting medicinal use of cannabis, since it’s not being taught in medical school or traditional nursing programs.

“Unfortunately, you can’t get information from your family doctor because they’re either uneducated (on cannabis) or scared of the ramifications,” she says.

Dictionary book page with smartphone placed on top, showing dictionary definition of cannabis. Photo by Margo Amala/Unsplash

Addressing the Knowledge Gap Around Cannabis

D.J., another of our other Leaf nurses, came to cannabis nursing after first working in cannabis cultivation. As she learned more about the therapeutic benefits of the plant, she gravitated toward the medical field.

“I knew the possibility existed that there was going to be a gap in the public’s knowledge, the medical profession’s knowledge as well as how quickly the industry was moving forward and someone would eventually need to fill in the gaps,” D.J. says. 

This need motivated D.J. to return to school to earn a Bachelor in Nursing (BSN) degree, as well as pursue cannabis nurse education.

“I have put a lot of heart and soul into developing myself as a cannabis nurse,” says D.J. “As a nurse, I can see both the anecdotal evidence (hearing from individual patients), and the empirical evidence. I can help explain what that empirical evidence means to patients.”

Serving the Needs of All the Public: Patients and Clinicians

Four years ago, our co-founder, Katherine Golden, RN, began looking into cannabis as a treatment option when helping a family member who was fighting cancer. 

Once I started looking through all the science I could find, through the most reputable resources, I was angry, angry that more wasn’t done to shout this information from the rooftop for all of us medical professionals to take a deeper look at,” Katherine says. 

In fact, that moment was the beginning of a journey to provide evidence-based, medically sound information to not only her own family, but also to the general public and to other clinicians. 

“We’ve had calls from social workers and other nurses battling medical conditions and seeking plant education themselves, to nutritionists, acupuncturists, physical therapists, and MDs thanking us for providing this type of resource for them to ask us questions that they can then relay the answers back to their patients or clients or send them to us directly,” Katherine says. “When you open your arms and knowledge to allow other colleagues in, you in turn lessen the burden each one of us carries to bed at night.”

When You Call the Leaf411 Hotline, You’ll Get a Cannabis-Trained RN

From the first day, we knew that we wanted the Leaf411 hotline calls to be answered by licensed medical professionals. Registered nurses were the perfect fit. 

By staffing our hotline with RNs who have completed additional cannabis education through Radicle Health and The Medical Cannabis Institute, we make sure that you receive consistent, medically-sound guidance based on research. Our nurses use a medical framework for understanding your health concerns and goals and providing guidance.

Whether you are a patient or clinician, we are here to help! Call us at 844-LEAF411 (844-532-3411) or use the chat function on our home page.

*You may be wondering why we use anonymized initials instead of our nurses’ real names in this post. 

Here’s why: There can be employment or licensing consequences for nurses and doctors who work in the cannabis space, even though their recommendations are in line with the research and comply with state laws. This will only change once federal laws are updated in line with the growing evidence showing the medicinal benefits of cannabis.

The Leaf411 cannabis nurse hotline provides free, anonymous education and directional support to the general public about the safe use of legal cannabis. We partner with select business members who meet our rigorous standards to extend our education and outreach efforts.


Addressing Cannabis Stigma on the Leaf411 Nurse Hotline

Medically reviewed by Katherine Golden, RN
Written by Denise Gonzalez-Walker

The cannabis sativa plant has been used as medicine for over 1,500 years, according to historic records.

That can be hard to imagine sometimes, after nearly 100 years of cannabis prohibition in the United States.

Chances are good that you grew up hearing messages about the dangers of marijuana, complete with scary stories of addiction, irresponsible behavior, and negative health impacts.

Where did these messages come from? It’s a long story that we’ll be covering in a future blog, but the takeaway is that many of these negative stories and stereotypes were driven by politics and money, not by research.

Now, research is showing that much of the old propaganda simply isn’t true.

Male clinician in white coat reviewing cannabis research, standing in medical library holding thick book.

With legalization expanding at the state level, many people across all walks of life are going public with their use, showing that cannabis can be used responsibly for therapeutic or recreational purposes.

The cannabis plant contains many different cannabinoids, including tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and cannabidiol (CBD). When we talk about cannabis, we’re really talking about two categories of products:

  • CBD hemp products are now legal under federal law and almost all state laws (Idaho, Nebraska and South Dakota are the exception). CBD hemp comes from hemp plants—cannabis plants bred and grown to contain very little to no THC. Under federal law, CBD hemp products are limited to less than 0.3% THC.
  • THC is the cannabinoid responsible for the “high” that people feel when using cannabis. Products containing over 0.3% THC are legally sold in dispensaries in states that have voted for legal recreational or medical marijuana.

Despite growing acceptance, many people run headfirst into misconceptions and stigma when considering whether to try cannabis themselves.

Anatomical model of brain in a laboratory. Photo by Robina Weermeijer/Unsplash

Tackling the Stigma: Cannabis Will Not Destroy Your Brain

Our hotline callers are often concerned about whether cannabis will kill brain cells. When we recently talked to Dave Gordon, MD, one of our Leaf411 Advisory Board members, he shared similar stories of patients who worried that cannabis would hurt their brains. Dr. Dave explained that in response, he shares the research showing that in fact, cannabis won’t harm the adult brain, and may even be protective against certain neurological disorders like Alzheimer’s and dementia.

Likewise, our hotline nurses always go to the research when answering specific questions about how cannabis may impact brain health. Peer-reviewed studies can be hard to decipher if you don’t have a medical background and clinical training. One reason we created the FREE Leaf411 cannabis hotline is to help bridge the gap between cannabis research and the public.

Distorted repeated image of woman’s face, representing discomfort from being too high after using cannabis. Photo by Diana Satellite/Unsplash

The Fear of Getting Too High from Cannabis

When people first call the hotline, they often express concerns that using any amount of THC at all, even the very small amount in CBD hemp products, will make them too high.

THC is not like a simple on-off light switch, though.

Instead, you can think of it like a gas pedal in a car, where more gas equals greater speed. The amount of THC you use will impact how much of the “high” you feel—or whether you feel those intoxicating effects at all.

For example, the amount of THC in a full spectrum hemp product is not enough for you to feel it—but it is enough to contribute to the entourage effect when the different plant compounds work together to provide enhanced therapeutic benefits.

Some people are most comfortable starting with CBD hemp products to test the waters and see if it helps their health concern. And CBD hemp is the only legal option for people living in states where recreational and medical marijuana are outlawed.

When you call the hotline, we listen and take your goals and priorities into consideration. We can provide specific guidance to help you minimize the risk of feeling “too high,” while also helping you find a product that is a good match for your needs.

Molecular diagram of THC, with cannabis leaves in background.

THC: Bogeyman or Powerful Plant Ally?

You may still be skeptical about the power of THC, since that cannabinoid is at the root of the propaganda from the past century.

If full-spectrum CBD hemp products contain all the plant compounds, after all, then why is more THC needed?

It’s true that full spectrum CBD hemp alone provides relief for many people, especially when dealing with inflammation pain.

However, when someone is dealing with chronic neuropathic pain, a higher dose of THC may offer more relief, due to the fact that THC works with the same nervous system receptors that opiates do, without the problematic side effects that come with opiates.

The THC cannabinoid can also help with relaxation and mental release, whether you’re dealing with pain, anxiety or other health concerns. However, it can take some trial and error to find the best product, dose and even CBD:THC ratio for your needs.

At Leaf411, our goal is to empower our callers so that your experiences with cannabis are positive. Our hotline nurses have the training and experience to help guide you in the right direction on your journey.

Female nurse in scrubs with a skeptical expression, questioning cannabis’s medical benefits

Addressing Cannabis Stigma Among Clinicians

We know that not all doctors, nurses and other clinicians are on the same page when it comes to the potential therapeutic benefits of cannabis.

Keep in mind, clinicians grew up with the same stereotypes and stigmas as the rest of us. Odds are good that when they went to nursing or medical school, they received little to no education on cannabis, either. For example, a study published in 2017 found that only 9% of medical schools included education on prescribing medical marijuana.

As clinicians ourselves, we always suggest that you discuss your cannabis use with your primary care provider. As providers see more patients who are successfully using cannabis to treat different health conditions, their own minds may be changed about the power of plant-based medicine. In our interview with Dr. Dave, he makes some suggestions for how to broach the topic with your primary care provider.

State legalization, as well as federal legalization of CBD hemp, has put cannabis on the radar for many physicians, nurses and other clinicians. When we talk to our colleagues, we hear them saying that they know their patients are turning to CBD hemp and marijuana as an alternative.

However, as long as cannabis remains illegal at the federal level, many clinicians are reluctant to proactively suggest this option to patients, especially when they don’t have specialized education to guide their recommendations. In addition to a lack of knowledge, they face potential professional repercussions from their own employer or licensing bodies.

Pioneers in the Field: Cannabis Doctors and Nurses

Despite the challenges, many doctors and nurses are actively seeking out the research and training to provide medically-sound guidance to patients on cannabis as a treatment option.

They may be like Dr. Dave, who saw the limits of conventional medicine in bringing relief and balance back to patients’ lives. He began digging deep into the research after realizing he needed better tools.

They may also be like our very own CEO, Katherine Golden, RN, a nurse with over 22 years of experience. She turned to the research when helping a family member who had a cancer diagnosis, and found compelling research on cannabis in well-known medical databases like PubMed and ScienceDirect.

In the coming month, we’ll highlight our Leaf411 hotline nurses, as well as the special training they undergo to prepare them for your calls.

The Leaf411 Hotline: A FREE Public Resource for Your Cannabis Questions

Our hotline nurses are ready to answer your questions on our free anonymous hotline. We combine our nursing expertise with specialized knowledge of the medicinal benefits of cannabis, providing balanced, research-based information and support. Call us at 844-LEAF411 (844-532-3411).

The Leaf411 cannabis nurse hotline provides free, anonymous education and directional support to the general public about the safe use of legal cannabis. We partner with select business members who meet our rigorous standards to extend our education and outreach efforts.


Finding the Best CBD:THC Ratios and Products for Pain

How Different CBD:THC Ratios and Types of Products Can Help with Pain

Medically reviewed by Katherine Golden, RN
Written by Denise Gonzalez-Walker

Last week, we overviewed different types of pain and shared how cannabis might help.

When it comes to treating pain with cannabis, both the type of product and the ratio of cannabinoids matter. The two primary cannabinoids are tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and cannabidiol (CBD), though the cannabis plant contains many other cannabinoids, terpenes, plus other compounds that contribute to its therapeutic effect.

CBD: This cannabinoid is the star player in hemp products which are federally legal. CBD hemp products are required to have below 0.3% THC, which is such a small amount that it’s not intoxicating and won’t get you high. You’ll also find CBD in cannabis products that contain higher levels of THC.

THC: The cannabinoid responsible for the “high,” if used in large enough amounts. Cannabis products containing over 0.3% THC remain illegal at the federal level and can only be legally purchased in states that have legalized recreational or medical marijuana.

Understanding the roles that both CBD and THC play in managing pain can help you find the best product for your needs. If you need a quick refresher on the types of pain that CBD and THC work best on, check out our previous post here.

Timing Your Dose: How Different Cannabis Products Reduce Pain

Whether you’re looking at CBD hemp or cannabis containing higher levels of THC (sold legally in dispensaries), you have several different routes of administration to choose between:

  • Inhalation (smoking, vaping): Takes effect immediately and lasts 2-4 hours. This is a great choice for instant relief and for treating breakthrough pain (a flare-up in pain when you’re already taking longer-acting cannabis products). You can also layer inhaled cannabis with a longer-acting method (more on layering below) to help get you through the night.
  • Transdermal (patches, gels): Extended release option that takes effect quickly, since the cannabinoids are absorbed directly into your bloodstream. The time of onset is rapid, sometimes within 20 minutes. Transdermal products provide a consistent dose of medicine for up to 12 hours. The transdermal patch or gel is used on an area where the veins are near the skin’s surface—like the inside of your wrist or on your ankle.
  • Sublingual (placed under the tongue): Sublingual administration can provide rapid relief, but there are few true oromucosal (sublingual) products on the market. Cannabinoids are fat-soluble and, in their natural state, do not absorb well into the oral mucosa. Moreover, cannabis products are often extracted into oils, and these products are not water-soluble. Patients often expect rapid onset when using tinctures, only to wait 1-3 hours for the dose to take effect. Many products marketed as tinctures will end up being swallowed and absorbed via the digestive system, regardless of how long they are held under the tongue. A true sublingual (a product in which the cannabinoids are formulated to be more water-soluble) absorbs rapidly into the mouth. The effects can be perceived in 15-20 minutes and can last 4-6 hours.
  • Edibles (gummies, capsules): Edibles take effect in between 30 minutes and 2 hours. You’ll feel their effects between 5-8 hours. They provide a discreet, portable long-acting option.
  • Topicals (creams, salves): Topicals provide short-term localized relief. They can take effect within minutes, and may last for up to an hour.

Understanding CBD:THC Ratios

Most marijuana flower sold at legal dispensaries is THC-dominant, with very little CBD. Of course there are exceptions, such as The Wife strain or even some CBD hemp flower strains. However, odds are that if you’re using flower, you won’t find ratios connected to the strain.

Once you start looking at other cannabis products, including vapes, you’ll notice ratios on many—but not all—product labels. Common ratios include 1:1, 5:1, 10:1, and even 20:1. What do these numbers mean? And how do they help with your pain?

The ratio indicates the amount of CBD compared to the amount of THC.

  • A 1:1 ratio is when the amount of CBD and THC are the same in each dose.
  • On the other hand, if a product has a 5:1 ratio, that means there’s five times as much CBD as THC in each dose.

It’s important to note that the ratio is not the same as the amount of CBD and THC. Our supporting member 1906 makes several different products, including their Midnight drops and Genius drops, that are designed to be swallowed. The ratio of each of these recreational products is 1:1—but the amount of CBD and THC in each is different.

  • The 1906 Midnight 1:1 drops have 5 mg of CBD and 5 mg of THC per dose.
  • The 1906 Genius drops are also a 1:1 ratio; however, they have 2.5 mg each of CBD and THC.

What if a product doesn’t list a ratio? In that case, look closely at the product label. The chances are good that the product either contains all CBD, with little or no THC (legal CBD hemp products fall in this category), or the product contains all THC.

What’s the Best CBD:THC Ratio For Your Pain?

The CBD and THC cannabinoids work individually to target different types of pain. By combining them in different ratios, though, you can achieve different effects to fit your specific needs. 

While everyone is different, the following guidelines work for most people:

1:1 – Equal amounts of THC and CBD. A good option to try for all kinds of pain, including neuropathic pain. Products with a 1:1 ratio can be uplifting but this ratio will most likely cause impairment if using the suggested serving size. Always start low, go slow, to avoid intoxicating effects.

2:1, 4:1, 5:1 – A balanced product that can provide optimized levels of both CBD and THC for medicinal use, based on the fact that higher doses of CBD are often needed for relief. Can be intoxicating. 

10:1 – A high CBD alternative for people who find the 5:1 ratio to be too intoxicating.

20:1 – High CBD levels along with very low THC levels provide a good option for managing inflammation pain. Very rarely intoxicating.

Leaf411’s supporting members offer many different CBD:THC ratios to meet different needs.

Be sure to closely look at the product label to make sure you understand the ratio! While it’s not as common, some manufacturers state the ratio reflecting the THC first and the CBD content second, like our member incredibles 10:1 THC:CBD tincture.

Layering Different Cannabis Products

Have you ever woken up in the middle of the night when your pain medication wore off, and suffered as you re-dosed and waited for the medicine to kick in? Fortunately, with CBD and THC products, you can layer different product types to reduce the changes of this happening.

For example, you might use a shorter-acting sublingual pill or vape to bring instant relief, together with an edible or transdermal patch to get you through the night.

If you’re using products containing THC (the cannabinoid that can be intoxicating and make you feel “high”), you’ll want to be careful with your dosing to make sure you don’t get end up with too much THC. The best approach is to start low and slow.

While you cannot overdose on THC, the feeling of being “too high” can be uncomfortable. Our website provides tips for what to do if you feel too high.

Cannabis as an Adjunct Therapy

Depending on how you use cannabis and other medications, there can be possible medication interactions. Our Leaf411 library offers guidance on specific medication interactions here

We recommend consulting with a clinician before combining cannabis (which includes CBD hemp products!) with pharmaceuticals or over-the-counter pain medications.

Our Leaf411 cannabis-trained registered nurses can help with questions specific to medications you’re taking, and our service is FREE! Call us at 844-LEAF411 (844-532-3411).

We’re Here to Help!

We realize that it can feel overwhelming when researching cannabis for pain. There are so many options—different types of products and different ratios. 

Research on cannabis as a safe alternative for treating pain continues to grow. As nurses, we’ve heard and seen firsthand the power of this plant-based medicine, and we stay up-to-date on the latest findings and clinical guidelines for using cannabis for pain. 

Our Leaf411 hotline nurses have both specialized training and experience helping people to find the best option for their particular situation. We’d love to share our expertise with you as well! Reach out to us on our free, anonymous hotline at at 844-LEAF411 (844-532-3411).

The Leaf411 cannabis nurse hotline provides free, anonymous education and directional support to the general public about the safe use of legal cannabis. We partner with select business members who meet our rigorous standards to extend our education and outreach efforts.


Cannabis May Help with Different Types of Pain

How Cannabis May Help with Different Types of Pain

Medically reviewed by Katherine Golden, RN
Written by Denise Gonzalez-Walker

We receive many calls on the Leaf411 cannabis nurse hotline from people who are curious to learn how cannabis might help with their pain.

In today’s post, we’ll share some information based on the questions we hear. We also provide suggestions on how to match the right cannabis product to your pain.

Our goal to help callers find a solution allows them to be functional. Of course, you’re always welcome to call our hotline with questions as well!

Much like any other medicine, cannabis is not a magic pill but it’s a tool. From the research and our own experiences working with patients, we believe that the cannabis plant may be an effective alternative to opiates or nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) like ibuprofen and acetaminophen, which can carry unwanted side effects if overused.

Cannabis for Pain: A Powerful Tool

When it comes to pain, everyone is different. How you experience pain, as well as your pain tolerance level, is shaped by a lot of different factors.

In the same way, people respond to medicines differently. That’s one reason why so many different painkillers are on the market today!

Cannabis is emerging as a different option, proving to be a powerful new tool for controlling pain. The cannabinoids in the cannabis plant, especially cannabidiol (CBD) and tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), have been shown to reduce inflammation and pain. Other cannabinoids and plant compounds like terpenes also play a role in reducing pain. (You can read more about terpenes in one of our past posts ).

Federal restrictions in the United States continue to limit research on how cannabis impacts pain; however, other countries such as Israel have completed considerable research on cannabis’s therapeutic benefits.

xray of broken collarbone, a source of acute pain.

Quick Primer on Types of Pain

Understanding the different types of pain and their sources can help you find the best cannabis options.

  • Acute pain usually comes about as the result of an injury, overuse, or medical procedure. While the initial pain can be mild or severe, it gets better over time as your body heals. Slamming your finger in a door results in acute pain. Post-workout soreness, broken bones and surgery recovery also fits into this category.
  • With chronic pain, “the pain itself becomes the disease,” explains Eduardo Fraifeld, MD, in this article. Doctors typically categorize pain lasting over 3-6 months as chronic pain. Chronic pain can be associated with arthritis, migraines, diabetes or multiple sclerosis (MS), among other conditions. It can be a side effect of chemotherapy or other long-term medical treatments. When an injury heals yet the pain remains, that also fits the description for chronic pain.

Pain can also be broken down into the following categories:

  • Nociceptive pain: Pain in soft tissues, tendons or joints caused by injury, overuse, stress or illness. Arthritis and other types of inflammatory pain also fit in this category. Nociceptive pain tends to get better over time, except for arthritis. With this type of pain, inflammation triggers nearby nerves, resulting in aching or throbbing pain. 

  • Neuropathic pain: Neuropathic pain, or nerve pain, originates in the nervous system, and is chronic in nature. It often feels like pins and needles, an electric shock, or a burning sensation. Some common causes of neuropathic pain are carpal tunnel syndrome, post-shingles symptoms, sciatica or pinched nerves, diabetes, and chemotherapy treatment. 

  • Nociplastic pain: A relatively new category for pain that doesn’t fit well into the other two categories. Fibromyalgia, non-specific low back pain, irritable bowel syndrome, and pain associated with and exacerbated by centralized and peripheral sensitization are all examples of nociplastic pain.

THC or CBD? It Depends on the Person and the Type of Pain

Before we jump into the pros and cons of THC versus CBD, we have to mention that to some extent, every human body is different. Cannabis plant compounds (cannabinoids) work on the CB1 and CB2 receptors in your body’s endocannabinoid system (yes, that’s a real thing!). Your body even makes its own cannabinoids.

Everyone’s endocannabinoid system is just a bit different, just like everyone has their own pain tolerance levels. Keep this in mind if your neighbor recommends a specific product that ends up not working for you.

However, we can share some general guidelines for using CBD and THC for pain.

CBD: Many people successfully use CBD products to reduce inflammation-based pain . Full spectrum CBD hemp products containing all the plant compounds, including less than 0.3% THC, tend to be the most effective, since minor cannabinoids, terpenes, flavonoids and essential fatty acids work together synergistically to create the “entourage effect.”

CBD has potent anti-inflammatory properties that can help reduce either acute or chronic inflammation. CBD also works as a muscle relaxant and has been shown to reduce muscle spasms associated with MS and other health conditions.

By reducing inflammation, CBD indirectly helps reduce pain. However, it doesn’t bind directly to the receptors that control pain like an opioid does. For that, you need a different cannabinoid, THC.

THC: We’ve heard a lot of people immediately rule out products with THC because they’re concerned that it will make them act silly or that they’ll get too high.

It’s important to know that small amounts of THC may have minimal intoxicating effects. At the same time, THC—even small amounts—can be a gamechanger when it comes to pain.

THC acts on the same receptors in your body that opiates do; however, you don’t get some of the problematic side effects that opiates can bring—nausea, constipation, and risk of physical addiction.

Close-up of clinician’s hands, with one hand holding cannabis flower and the other holding pills, showing different options.

Cannabis Compared to Opiates

Ironically, long-term use of opiates for chronic pain can make you more sensitive to pain—an effect called opioid-induced hyperalgesia. What’s the recommended protocol in response to opioid-induced hyperalgesia? To wean off of opiates and find a safer alternative for managing pain. Cannabis is showing promise on this front, based on emerging research.

Cannabis does not cause pain sensitization but in fact can help treat it. While THC and other cannabinoids work through the same receptors that opiates do, the way that they reduce pain—their chemical process—is different.

Neuropathic pain is difficult to treat even with conventional pharmaceuticals. Generally, opioid use for chronic neuropathic pain is ineffective. One study considered the risk and benefits of opioids for the treatment of neuropathies and stated that “long-term opioid therapy didn’t improve the functional status but rather was associated with a higher risk of subsequent opioid dependency and overdose.” 

If you are going to try cannabis for your neuropathic pain, many different ratios and cannabinoids may need to be explored before finding something that may ease some of the pain so you need to manage your expectations accordingly.

Group of five young adult friends with two dogs walking across field at sunset, healthy and happy.

The Goal: To Restore Function

We wish that we could tell you that CBD or THC products will completely eliminate all pain; however, that’s not the case. If there were a magic one-size-fits-all cure for pain, the pharmaceutical companies would’ve discovered and patented it by now!

Instead, when we talk to people on the hotline, we always set the goal to reduce pain to a manageable level and restore function. When you restore function, you open the possibility of adding on additional supportive activities such as exercise and relaxation that further promote healing.

In our next post, we’ll take a closer look at the best CBD:THC ratios and products for pain. We’ll also talk about how to layer different products to provide optimal short-term and long-term pain relief. Check back next week for more information!

Can’t wait to get started? Our FREE Leaf411 hotline is available now to answer your questions about using cannabis to manage pain. Call us at 844-LEAF411 (844-532-3411).

The Leaf411 cannabis nurse hotline provides free, anonymous education and directional support to the general public about the safe use of legal cannabis. We partner with select business members who meet our rigorous standards to extend our education and outreach efforts.


Talking to Your Partner about Cannabis

Medically reviewed by Katherine Golden, RN
Written by Denise Gonzalez-Walker

Cannabis has gone mainstream. Medical marijuana is legal in over half the states. Also, recreational use is legal in 11 states as well as in the District of Columbia and all of Canada.

Cannabidiol (CBD) hemp products containing less than 0.3% tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) are legal at the federal level, and widely available online and in retail outlets in almost all states. Compliant CBD hemp products should not get you high (cause impairment or intoxication), but offer many health benefits.

As legalization has spread, so has acceptance. According to a November 2019 Pew Research poll,  67% of Americans say marijuana should be federally legalized. This support exists across all age groups except for the Silent Generation, made up of people over the age of 75.

The shifting public attitudes might not be reflected in your own home, though.

How do you talk to your significant other if you’re curious to try cannabis but don’t know what they’ll think? This can be especially tricky when your partner has negative experiences, fear or preconceptions about cannabis.

Know Why You Want to Use Cannabis

Before you broach the topic with your partner, take stock of why you want to try cannabis. Are you “canna-curious” and interested in seeing what options exist in the legal marketplace? For example, some people are turning to THC-infused drinks and other products as alternatives to wine or beer.

Many people also seek out cannabis based on growing research about the plant’s health benefits.

Remember that cannabis is not a cure-all or magic pill. However, it can serve as a powerful tool.

Anticipate your Partner’s Concerns

Many of us had less-than-ideal experiences with marijuana in the past, when it was illegal everywhere. Product quality was iffy at best, and you never quite knew what was in the flower (buds) you were smoking. If you got caught, you faced legal charges, fines and even jail time, along with a criminal record.

Keep this recent history in mind when you bring up cannabis to your partner. Even someone with past cannabis experience may respond with skepticism at first, given the nature of their previous experiences.

You can address these concerns by talking about how state regulations provide more oversight and consistency in products sold at legal dispensaries.

While CBD products sold in retail outlets and online are not subject to this same level of oversight, most high-quality manufacturers provide Certificates of Analysis (COAs) with test results for their products to see exactly what makes up that particular product. 

Stigma: The Elephant in the Room… On the Couch Eating Chips

Cannabis still suffers from stereotypes, despite the fact that more athletes, businesspeople, and other high achievers are openly embracing the plant.

When you tell your partner you want to try cannabis, they may immediately picture you glued to the sofa with a bag of Doritos. Those old stereotypes are tough to shake!

Dr. Dave Gordon, founder of 4Pillars Health & Wellness, addressed some of these stereotypes in his recent interview with Leaf411.

“A lot of the cannabis propaganda that people have heard over time is just wrong,” he says. “The perfect example is when someone asks, ‘Is cannabis going to cause me to lose my brain cells?’ … Actually, the science shows that cannabis is probably going to protect your brain.”

You can read more from Dr. Dave on common misconceptions and what the research says about cannabis here.

Putting Cannabis in Context of Lifestyle Changes

When talking with your partner, put your interest in cannabis in context with other areas of your life, explaining how it fits with other goals and priorities. For example, if your goal is to improve your sleep, share other lifestyle changes you’ll be trying along with cannabis, like limiting screen time before bed.

Also, you can point out that while we try many new things in our lives, very few (if any) become all-encompassing. For example, when you took up running, it didn’t mean you were suddenly skipping work to spend all day out on the trails. Your experience with cannabis will likely follow a similar path, becoming a balanced activity, not a problematic one. 

Religion and Cannabis

Cannabis prohibition in the United States has always carried a strong moral undercurrent, using language such as “devil’s lettuce,” and stereotyping cannabis users as lazy stoners.

Most of today’s religions are against recreational use. Medical marijuana, on the other hand, is where many religions (but not all!) have shown more openness.

If your partner’s concerns are based on religion, try to understand their perspective. They may be concerned that you are not treating your body with respect, or that your use will be excessive and sinful.

If you’re only interested in using cannabis for recreational purposes, you’ll have a tough argument to make.

However, if you’re seeking cannabis for health purposes, consider framing your perspective to address your partner’s concerns. For example, talk about how you are seeking alternatives to prescription painkillers that have harmful side effects.

Also, you can point out that your goal is to heal, not to get high, and what that means for you.

For example, you might be starting with CBD hemp products that are federally legal and have no intoxicating effects. If you’re using products with THC, you might talk about how you plan to start low and go slow with dosing, an approach recommended by Leaf411 nurses, Dr. Dave and other cannabis health practitioners. A big misconception is that you need to feel high (intoxicated) to reap the medicinal benefits. This is not the case for most people using THC.

Talking About Substance Abuse Concerns

Substance abuse is a complex issue. You only need to look as far as a set of siblings, where one sibling becomes an alcoholic while the other does not, to see it’s not just a matter of genetics or upbringing. 

Your partner may understandably be concerned if they’ve had friends or family members who abused marijuana. Anything can have an abuse potential, from food to alcohol to cannabis, so explaining your intention is key.

It doesn’t help, either, that the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) lists marijuana as a Schedule 1 drug along with heroin, despite significant evidence that it is not nearly as harmful and has much lower potential for addiction. Part of the Schedule 1 designation is based on the FDA’s position that marijuana has no medical value.

This designation, ironically enough, limits the abilities of academic and medical professionals to conduct research on cannabis’s potential health benefits.

In other words, the FDA requires clinical research to support moving a drug down to a lower level on the schedule; however, due to FDA restrictions, it’s extremely difficult for researchers to conduct the very studies that the FDA requires.

Can someone become dependent on cannabis? According to Dr. Robert Navarra, a psychologist at the Gottman Institute, substance use and addiction fall on a spectrum. About 9% of people who use cannabis will develop cannabis use disorder which means they are dependent on—but not addicted to—cannabis. To put that in perspective, researchers estimate that approximately 30% of Americans have alcohol use disorders.

Respond to your partner’s concerns by talking about what your overall goals are in using cannabis, as well as how this plant-based tool fits in with other strategies you’re trying. If you’re embracing the start low and go slow approach, you can share that knowledge with your partner as well. Your goal is to find the right amount for your purposes.

CBD and Marijuana Health Concerns

In January 2020, new research came out from the American College of Cardiology showing that cannabis may interact with certain cardiac medications.

If your partner saw that study in the news, or other past news about the FDA questioning the safety of CBD, they might have hesitations, especially if you regularly take prescription medications.

We agree that it’s imperative to check with a medical professional before adding any new medicine to your ongoing regimen. You can check out our recent post on the subject here.

Our Leaf411 registered nurses are also available to talk to you or your partner about potential medication interactions with cannabis.

Legal Cannabis and the Workplace

First, we’ll say that if you live in a state without legal recreational or medical marijuana, then we strongly encourage you to limit yourself to CBD hemp products which are federally legal. CBD hemp products may provide many cannabis plant benefits, minus the intoxicating effects of THC.

CBD hemp is also legal at the state level nearly everywhere. (Idaho, Nebraska and South Dakota are the exception.)

Even in a fully-legal state with recreational and medical marijuana, your partner may have legal concerns.

For example, a med card or state legalization doesn’t serve as a defense against positive drug test results in the workplace.

If you work in a job that requires drug testing, then we recommend looking for CBD products that clearly state “No THC” on their label. Verify the product quality and contents, as well, by reviewing the manufacturer’s COA listing the lab test results. Be sure to share this information with your partner as well, so they can understand how you’re taking steps to use safe products.

Is your partner worried that secondhand marijuana smoke could cause them to fail a drug test? This is a common concern. We’ve reviewed the research and haven’t been able to find any published studies that passive or incidental exposure will result in a positive drug test.

Offer Cannabis Resources and Education

Does your partner know the difference between full-spectrum CBD hemp containing under 0.3% THC versus marijuana products with higher THC levels? Do they understand that you don’t need to smoke marijuana for it to be effective?

Check in with your partner to make sure that you’re both talking about the same thing. They might assume that you plan to smoke or vape marijuana flower that will get you high, while you’re actually planning to start with an edible or oil that contains more CBD than THC.

Your first instinct might be to answer your partner’s questions with “Google it.” However, there are thousands of websites offering misinformation on both sides of the cannabis debate.

That’s one reason we formed the Leaf411 nonprofit hotline—to provide a trustworthy resource to the public, providing medically-sound, balanced information.

Our Leaf411 library is a good starting point, offering a list of resources providing a balanced view.

Our registered nurses who staff the FREE Leaf411 hotline are also a great resource. You don’t have to be a cannabis user to call us. We take calls from many non-cannabis users, including spouses, family members, and clinicians who are simply seeking more information to help their patients.

Creating Shared Expectations Around Cannabis Use

It’s important to talk to your partner about how, when and where you plan to use CBD hemp or marijuana, coming up with a plan that both of you can live with.

Some people simply don’t like the smell of marijuana. They may worry that it will cause everyone in the house to smell like they’ve been smoking, or that neighbors will notice the smell. This is a legitimate concern!

Fortunately, there are many alternatives to smoking, including vapes which produce less odor, as well as edibles, tinctures, and even transdermal and topical products.

Other areas you’ll want to discuss are listed below. Your decisions will likely be shaped in part by why you’re using CBD hemp or marijuana. For example, if your goal is to reduce social anxiety, then it won’t be especially helpful if your partner insists that you only use cannabis at home after everyone else is in bed.

Kids: Whether or not to use cannabis around your children is both a highly personal decision, and also a hotly-debated issue. Pediatricians express concerns about secondhand smoke, as well as risks with parents being intoxicated with any substances, including cannabis, while caregiving. On the other hand, more parents like Kaycee Bawdon are speaking out about responsibly using cannabis while parenting. Many parents point out that drinking alcohol around kids is widely accepted, even though it is a more dangerous substance. As a starting point for discussing this issue with your partner, check out this article to read rules different parents have set around using cannabis at home.

Visitors: For many of us, marijuana was a common presence in our younger days. Visit a friend’s dorm room, and they might offer you a hit off their bong. Of course, many dorm room relics no longer fit in our lives.

While many adults enjoy the social aspects of modern cannabis culture, others prefer to keep their use private. Talk to your partner about how to handle this issue in your home, recognizing that different situations may call for different rules.

A Few Final Thoughts on the Importance of Trust

Your partner may not be the biggest fan of cannabis, but hopefully they will respect and support your right to use CBD hemp or marijuana products in a legal, safe, responsible manner. You can help the cause, so to speak, by being truthful about your use. Nothing creates mistrust faster than sneaking around and lying.

Respect is a two-way street. If your partner chooses to not use CBD hemp or marijuana, it’s important for you to respect their decision. Resist the urge to pressure them to try your new vape “just one time” even if you think they’d love it.

Need Help Starting the Conversation?

Our Leaf411 cannabis-trained nurses are available to provide balanced education and guidance on safe, legal cannabis use. We’ve even had couples call and put us on speaker phone, so they could both be part of the conversation!

We encourage you or your partner to call us with your questions at 1-844-LEAF411 (844-532-3411).

The Leaf411 cannabis nurse hotline provides free education and directional support to the general public about the safe use of legal cannabis. We partner with select business members who meet our rigorous standards to extend our education and outreach efforts.


Planning Your First Dispensary Visit

Medically reviewed by Katherine Golden, RN
Written by Denise Gonzalez-Walker

If you’ve never visited a recreational or medical marijuana dispensary before, it can be stressful knowing where to start. How do you choose the best dispensary for your needs? What methods of payment do they take?

We’ve all been there at one point! Leaf411 board member Ella Cressman recalls her first dispensary visit in the video below. Ella is the founder of HHP Collective, and is a licensed esthetician who has extensive training and experience formulating cannabidiol (CBD) topical products.

Finding a Good Dispensary

It seems like Google has everything covered these days, and marijuana dispensaries are no exception. You can search “dispensary near me” to find nearby options. The results typically include Google reviews and photos that provide a sense of product quality and store atmosphere. The dispensary website will also be listed, where you can find more information on the type of dispensary (recreational or medical), hours of operation and other details.

The Leaf411 resource guide is also a great place to check. Our supporting members have been fully vetted to ensure they are compliant with all regulations, and are committed to providing consistent, high-quality products along with attentive customer service.

There are a few online directories like Leafly that list dispensaries along with reviews and product menus from many locations. It’s important to know that companies pay to be listed and promoted on Leafly, so the amount of information about specific dispensaries may vary. 

Want to make new friends while visiting a dispensary? Consider taking a tour!

Katherine Golden, RN, Leaf411 CEO, touring the Seed & Smith’s cannabis cultivation facility.

A Great First-Time Option: Tour a Dispensary

A growing number of dispensaries offer free tours where you can learn more about their products. Leaf411 member Seed & Smith offers 40-minute tours showing their grow facilities, and how they harvest, process and extract cannabis for concentrates. You can even smell fresh terpenes on the tour!

Many community centers and senior programs also offer guided tours of local dispensaries (only in states with legalized marijuana, of course). These tours are popular with seniors who are curious about cannabis for health and wellness. 

Looking for Specific Cannabis Products?

If you’re looking for a specific product, you can use Leafly or the product manufacturer’s website to find nearby dispensaries that sell what you’re looking for. Check out Leaf411’s cannabis manufacturer listings to find high-quality products made by our supporting members.

Remember that marijuana products containing over 0.3% THC cannot be shipped for sale across state lines. If you’re eyeing a high-THC edible made by a company based in Oregon, chances are that it won’t be available outside of Oregon unless the company is a multi-state operator (MSO) with licensed production facilities in other states. For example, our supporting member Altus produces gummies and tablets that are sold in both Colorado and Nevada, and the incredibles brand is available in Colorado, Illinois and Oregon.

Making Your List Before You Go

Visiting a dispensary can feel a bit like being a kid in a candy store, especially when you’re checking out the edibles!

We suggest that you review the dispensary’s menu online before visiting. Use it to make a list of products you’re interested in. You can also list your questions and priorities—like wanting a flower strain that has high amounts of linalool (the terpene that’s also found in lavender).

Need help sorting out all the options? Our Leaf411 nurses can help at no cost to you through our hotline 844-LEAF411 (844-532-3411). Our priority as an education-focused nonprofit is always to find the best options for our callers. We don’t get commissions for recommending one product over another.

Things to Take on Your First Dispensary Visit

You’ve made your list and found a dispensary that you’re excited to visit. Before you head out the door, make sure you have the following:

  • Government-issued identification: Valid government-issued photo identification is required to verify you are 21 or over (or 18 or older with a med card). Your ID will be checked several times during your dispensary visit (more on that below)
  • Med card: Depending on the dispensary, you may need to bring a medical marijuana card. In states with only legal medical marijuana, a med card is required to shop at dispensaries and legally possess marijuana.
  • Cash: Cash is king at most dispensaries. This is in large part due to federal banking restrictions preventing dispensaries from accepting credit card payments. Some dispensaries provide onsite ATMs in their lobbies, or even the ability to use your debit card and pin at the register. However, ATMs can break down or run out of cash. Your best bet is bring enough cash to cover your purchase.
  • Don’t forget sales tax when planning on how much cash you’ll need! Sales tax on recreational marijuana is much higher than sales tax at the grocery store. States set their own tax rate, then counties and local municipalities add on additional taxes as well. The marijuana sales tax rate can range from 5% to almost 50% sales tax, depending on the dispensary’s location. When you visit a dispensary, be sure to ask if their prices include sales tax, or if it’s added on at the end when you check out.

When You Arrive at the Dispensary

Walking through the dispensary door can be a scary moment. Odds are that you’ll find a smiling, helpful face on the other side, though!

  • When you first arrive, a receptionist will check your government-issued ID. They may also scan it into their system. This is so they can track the total amount of product you’ve purchased from their company within a day. States have different limits on how much residents and out-of-state visitors can buy each day. Dispensaries can face stiff fines and even jail time if they allow customers to abuse the daily limits.
  • If you are a medical marijuana patient, you’ll also need to share your med card
  • After you check in, a budtender will be assigned to help you. If the dispensary is busy, you may have to wait a few minutes before one is available. Many dispensaries like our members Lightshade, Seed & Smith, and Smoking Gun have comfortable waiting areas with clean restrooms, cannabis periodicals, dispensary menus, and educational information to read.

A Different Shopping Experience

Your budtender will meet you in the waiting area and take you into the main dispensary area. Many states require the budtender to check your ID again, and even ask you questions to verify the ID really belongs to you. Don’t be surprised if you get asked your zip code, eye color or other details from your ID.

After your identity is confirmed, the budtender will ask what you’re looking for. This is where your list comes in handy! You might also want to mention that it’s your first dispensary visit, so that the budtender can make sure to explain the buying process as well as any limits on how much you can buy in a day.

Dispensary Dos and Don’ts

Shopping at a dispensary is different than any other retail experience. This is mostly due to laws which vary from state to state. In Colorado, for example, budtenders can hold open a jar of marijuana flower (buds) for you to smell. In California, though, the laws require flower to be packaged and sold in sealed containers. 

No matter where you’re shopping, the following list of dos and don’ts apply.

Do:

  • Bring a positive attitude and open mind. Budtenders help a lot of people who are new to cannabis. They don’t expect you to be an expert!
  • Bring your list along with your questions. While budtenders cannot provide medical advice, they can share product information and other customers’ experiences with different products.
  • Ask the budtender if they’ve tried a product that you’re curious about. You may be surprised at how candid their reviews are.
  • Ask before reaching out to touch or smell a product. 

Don’t:

  • Don’t talk about buying products for other people unless you are the designated caregiver shopping for a medical marijuana patient. State laws prohibit you from sharing your own medical marijuana with others. Recreational marijuana can be gifted to another adult within the same legal state; however, it cannot be sold, even at cost. Why is this? State regulators are concerned about products ending up on the black market or in the hands of young people.
  • Don’t ask about taking product out of state. It’s illegal to transport marijuana across state lines, since federal laws prohibit interstate transport.
  • Don’t ask for samples. Onsite consumption of products is strictly prohibited at dispensaries. 
  • Don’t feel pressured to buy something that doesn’t feel right for you. This is where your list comes in handy, keeping you on track. If the budtender is pushing a product you’re not interested in, you could say, “Thanks for that suggestion. I’ll check it out at a different time. But today, I’m looking for something else.”
  • Don’t ask for medical advice. Budtenders are prohibited from providing medical advice, and the majority do not have a medical background. However, the cannabis-trained RNs at Leaf411 are qualified to answer your medical questions!

Our Leaf411 button for budtenders to wear. It says “Not a Doctor. Ask a cannabis nurse for free at 844-Leaf411”
Our Leaf411 buttons remind budtenders and customers about our free nurse hotline.

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The Leaf411 cannabis nurse hotline provides free education and directional support to the general public about the safe use of legal cannabis. We partner with select business members who meet our rigorous standards to extend our education and outreach efforts.


Terpenes and THC: Why Terpenes Matter More Than You Think

Medically reviewed by Katherine Golden, RN
Written by Denise Gonzalez-Walker

If you visit internet forums, you’ll find countless questions like, “What’s the best marijuana strain for pain?” or “What’s the best daytime strain for me?”

In this post, we’ll help you find the best product for your specific needs by taking a look at the role that terpenes play in cannabis’s effects. (Not sure what terpenes are? Check out our previous post here.)

Why do terpenes matter? Isn’t it just a matter of finding the plant with the most THC? 

The short answer: No. It’s not all about THC or even the type of strain.

Many people compare the THC or CBD to a singer in a rock band. Sure, they lead the show, but without all the other instruments, the experience would be very different!

Different Cannabis Types: Sativa, Indica, and Hybrid

Step into a legal marijuana dispensary or look online at their menu, and you’ll find many different product choices. (We use “marijuana” when talking about cannabis containing >0.3% THC.)

Cannabis is usually divided into three general groups—sativa, indica, and hybrid. Within each of these groups, you’ll find different strains (scientifically referred to as “chemovars”).

What makes all these strains’ effects so different from one another? You might be surprised to find out it’s not whether the strain/chemovar is classified as a sativa, indica or hybrid, or even the amount of THC.

Illustration showing differences between cannabis sativa, indica and ruderalis plants.

Sativa, Indica or Hybrid Plants: The Scientific Perspective

There’s ongoing debate if the cannabis plant includes several distinct species or not: cannabis sativa, cannabis indica, and cannabis ruderalis. Scientifically speaking, these three different types of cannabis have a lot to do with how the plants grow, and not so much on the plants’ therapeutic effects.

Sativa plants grow taller with narrower leaves, while indica plants tend to be shorter and bushier with wider leaves. Ruderalis is a much smaller low-THC plant that you won’t likely find in dispensaries.

Indica plants tend to be easier to grow due to their compact size and shorter flowering season. This has made indica more popular among growers. Indica plants are crossed with sativa plants to create hybrids that improve plant growth and harvest yields. In other words, most cannabis today is a hybrid, combining genetics from indica and sativa strains.

If that’s the case, then why do so many people reference various cannabis strains/chemovars as being sativas, indicas or hybrids?

When most people reference a particular strain/chemovar as being a sativa, indica or hybrid, what they are really talking about is the therapeutic effects the plant will deliver.

Sativa strains/chemovars have a reputation for being uplifting and energizing, while indica strains/chemovars are known to be more sedating. Hybrid strains combine elements from both sativa and indica strains/chemovars.

Those effects are the result of all the plant compounds working together, including the plant terpenes, not simply the particular strain or THC/CBD content.

How Marijuana Strains Are Alike

All cannabis strains contain THC and CBD. In fact, a recent study showed that the levels of THC and CBD are almost the same in about 75% of marijuana, regardless of strain or even whether it’s classified as a sativa, indica or hybrid. (A few high-CBD marijuana strains exist that are the exception to this rule.)

The Blue Dream strain/chemovar and the Sour Diesel strain/chemovar both contain about 19% THC and very little CBD. However, your experience using these two strains will likely be very different. Why is that?

What Makes Strains Different: Terpenes

Remember how we said that THC and CBD are like a lead singer in the band?

To continue that example, the other plant compounds are like the rest of the band, adding to the experience. And if you change up the band, then the experience can be very different.

If you’ve ever heard a singer do a special performance with a symphony instead of their regular band, then you know the difference that the other instruments play in setting the mood and shaping the experience.

Likewise, marijuana strains with similar THC and CBD amounts have different minor cannabinoids and terpenes which create very different effects.

Let’s look again at Blue Dream and Sour Diesel, the two strains/chemovars with very similar amounts of THC and CBD, to see how this works:

In the Blue Dream strain, the myrcene terpene is dominant, with pinene as well. The myrcene creates a relaxing, anti-inflammatory effect, while the pinene also addresses inflammation and pain.

Leaf411 member Lightshade’s Blue Dream hybrid strain features a blend of myrcene and a-pinene terpenes
Lightshade’s Blue Dream Strain (Blueberry x Hybrid Haze)

Sour Diesel, on the other hand, is dominated by caryophyllene and limonene terpenes. The caryophyllene and limonene contribute to this strain’s reputation for being energizing and uplifting, reducing depression and pain.

Leaf411 member Lightshade Dispensary’s Sour Diesel hybrid strain includes β-caryophyllene and limonene terpenes.
Lightshade’s Sour Diesel Strain (Original Diesel x DNL)

Finding the Right Terpenes

How do you find a strain/chemovar that contains a specific terpene? Leafly offers a “Find Your Strain” tool that can help you identify strains by terpene profile.

A few dispensaries, including our supporting member Lightshade,  include terpene profiles online with their flower products; however, many dispensaries do not.

Budtenders should be able to help answer questions about strains which feature specific terpenes. In some states, including Colorado, you can even smell the flower in the dispensary, allowing you to identify the dominant terpene strains with your own nose.

Max Montrose from Trichrome Institute explains how smell can lead you to the strongest terpenes in the video clip below.

Growing Seasons and Conditions

If you eat fresh fruit or vegetables, you know that growing conditions and the time of year can make a big difference in the flavor. The same goes for marijuana flower.

Each state with legal recreational and/or medical marijuana has different laws restricting who can grow and where they can grow. Growing outdoors is a popular option, though companies face challenges posed by weather, pests and disease. While growing indoors provides more control, it’s also quite a bit more expensive. Indoor growers also face challenges with mold and spider mites.

How Terpenes Are Affected by Growing Methods

Individual growers can end up with very different results from the same strains based on where and how they grow and harvest their plants.

Let’s go back to our Sour Diesel example. Imagine that two different companies are growing this strain.

  • One grower might be focused on producing the most flower for the lowest price. Their Sour Diesel flower will contain all the cannabinoids and other plant compounds found in this strain/chemovar. However, it’s very likely that their product will lack the strong terpenes that come from careful cultivation and harvesting.
  • Another grower might take those same Sour Diesel seeds, but use different growing methods designed to maximize all the plant compounds, including the terpenes. It takes more time and effort (and money!) to create high-quality flower. Though this flower costs more, you get bigger benefits and may even have to use less to achieve your health goals.

You may even notice some variation in the same strain/chemovar sold at the same dispensary over time. These variations shouldn’t be extreme in high-quality products, however.

Tips for Finding the Right Marijuana Strain for Your Needs

The different options may have you feeling overwhelmed at this point! However, it’s a big improvement from the old days of buying a bag of mystery buds without any knowledge of where they came from or what they contain.

Here are some tips to help you find the best flower strain/chemovar for your needs:

  • Start with your specific goals and then find a product that fits, not the other way around.  
  • If you need help matching your goals to terpenes and cannabis strains/chemovars, give Leaf411 a call at 1-844-LEAF411 (1-844-532-3411). Our cannabis-trained nurses are happy to help with your questions!
  • Remember that the THC levels are similar across most strains/chemovars, unless the strain is specifically grown to be high CBD. The terpenes are what create different effects. 
  • Focus on plant terpene profiles, not whether the strain/chemovar is listed as an indica, sativa or hybrid.
  • Ask a budtender for help finding strains with specific terpene profiles.
  • Find dispensaries that have a reputation for selling high-quality flower. You can check the Leaf411 member directory for dispensaries we’ve vetted that are committed to sourcing top-of-the-line products. Online reviews are also helpful.

In our next post, we’ll provide more information to help you prepare for your first dispensary visit. Be sure to check back next week!

Subscribe to our newsletter below and stay up-to-date on Leaf411 events and information. 

Have questions about terpenes? Our nurses can help! Call our free, anonymous hotline at 844-LEAF411 (844-532-3411).

The Leaf411 cannabis nurse hotline provides free education and directional support to the general public about the safe use of legal cannabis. We partner with select business members who meet our rigorous standards to extend our education and outreach efforts.


What Are Terpenes?

Medically reviewed by Katherine Golden, RN
Written by Denise Gonzalez-Walker

You likely have heard of cannabidiol (CBD) and tetrahydrocannabinol (THC).

But how about terpenes? These compounds play an important role in the cannabis plant’s health benefits.

Understanding the therapeutic effects of specific terpenes can help you find the right cannabis product for your needs.

Lemons, black pepper, basil, rosemary, cinnamon and other herbs on a table. Many spices and herbs contain beneficial plant compounds called terpenes.

Terpenes: The Plant Compounds You Already Know

Do you use lemon peel in your baking? Or have you found that lavender products help you relax?

Lemon, lavender and many other plants contain terpenes. Terpenes are aromatic molecules that help give certain plants their distinctive smells. These compounds also have therapeutic benefits.

For example, you’ve probably seen essential oils, candles, and even sleep masks that contain lavender for relaxation. The terpene linalool is one source of both lavender’s distinctive scent and relaxing effects.

Many people also use citrus-based scents, like lemon, for a mood lift and energy. The lemon smell comes in part from limonene, a terpene contained in citrus peels.

Cannabis also contains many familiar terpenes, including linalool and limonene. These terpenes add to the plant’s therapeutic benefits.  

Terpenes and the Entourage Effect

Cannabis flower (buds) and full spectrum products contain many other cannabinoids in addition to CBD and THC. They also contain different beneficial plant compounds, including terpenes, flavonoids and fatty acids. All these plant compounds work together to create an “entourage effect,” providing synergistic benefits beyond what a single compound could provide.

Boosting Your Health with Plant-Powered Terpenes

Have you heard of forest bathing? This practice involves spending quiet time in a forest, engaging all your senses, including your sense of smell. The practice began in Japan, where it’s called shinrin-yoku. Forest bathing reflects research showing how we benefit physically and mentally from time in nature. In fact, scientists are finding that both plant essential oils and terpenes—airborne plant compounds—play a central role in nature’s positive impact on human health.

The terpenes alpha-pinene and beta-pinene are found in many evergreen forest trees, contributing to forest bathing’s positive health impact. They’re also present in some cannabis plant strains.

Pinene isn’t the only terpene out there, though! Thousands of different terpenes exist in nature, and many different terpenes have been found in the cannabis plant.

Common Cannabis Terpenes

Some of the most common terpenes found in cannabis are listed below. It’s important to note that plants can contain multiple terpenes.

  • Myrcene: Commonly found in cannabis strains/chemovars as well as in basil, lemongrass and ylang ylang. Myrcene helps promote sleep and may also reduce inflammation.
  • Limonene: Well-known for providing a mood lift while reducing stress and anxiety, all by elevating serotonin levels in the brain.
  • Linalool: Shown to reduce anxiety and depression, while also improving sleep quality. Linalool is also being tested in clinical settings to help reduce pain and nausea following surgery.
  • Pinene: Found in evergreen trees, and also in many cannabis chemovars, pinene has anti-inflammatory and respiratory benefits.
  • Beta-Caryophyllene: Found in black pepper, oregano, and cloves as well as cannabis. Beta-caryophyllene (also referred to as “caryophyllene”) is unique among terpenes found in cannabis, because it can bind directly to CB2 receptors which are located throughout your body. Caryophyllene is being studied for its impact reducing inflammation and pain, as well as its potential to protect age-related cognitive decline.
  • Alpha-Caryophyllene (Humulene): Also found in hops, humulene works together with caryophyllene to reduce inflammation. It also can suppress appetite.

Terpenes and Heat

Terpenes are affected by temperature. 

The evaporation point is when terpenes start releasing volatile compounds, usually between 70-100 degrees Fahrenheit (°F). If you’ve ever walked through an herb garden on a sunny day, you’ve likely noticed you can smell the plants more strongly. That smell is in part due to terpenes.

When plant terpenes reach their boiling point, they are fully vaporized. This is at a much hotter temperature, over 300°F, though boiling points vary between different terpenes.

Terpenes are released when cannabis is smoked. Lighters need to produce a very hot flame in order to ignite materials—in fact, the temperatures on a lighter flame can range from 430°F to over 2,000°F. The temperature of a lighter flame is hard to control. Also, combustion can destroy many of the beneficial plant compounds as a result of the high heat.

As an alternative, some people prefer vaping cannabis flower so they can more precisely control the temperature to maximize terpene release. Some cannabis users describe this control like having a volume control on a radio. Lower temperatures create a quieter, more subdued effect, while hotter temperatures will give you a more intense result, in large part due to which terpenes are released. 

Our “How to Use Cannabis” post provides more details.

Terpene Benefits in Topical Products

Terpenes provide  numerous benefits without the addition of heat. After all, you don’t have to smoke the forest to gain benefits from forest bathing!

As we mentioned before, terpenes become available through evaporation that occurs at lower temperatures than smoking or vaping. 

Research supports aromatherapy’s impact on the body’s limbic system to positively impact mood and recovery. And one of the key components in aromatherapy essential oils is terpenes! 

Our understanding of how these plant compounds contribute to the therapeutic benefits of cannabis is growing every day. Experts such as Jordan Person, LMT, LPN, continue to look at how to combine the benefits of cannabinoids such as THC and CBD with specific terpene profiles to achieve maximum relief. For example, she discusses how a cream containing both CBD and limonene helps to provide uplifting recovery following vigorous outdoor activities.

Using Terpenes in Edibles and Tinctures

The cannabinoids (THC and/or CBD, along with other cannabinoids) provide the strongest effect you feel with edibles, tinctures and swallowed pills. However, terpenes also add nuanced effects.

How does this work?

A full-spectrum CBD tincture made for sleep might be made from hemp with high levels of linalool. On the other hand, a full-spectrum CBD tincture designed for focus may have higher amounts of caryophyllene and limonene. The amount of CBD in each product may be the same, but the effects are different thanks to terpenes. (We’ll dive deeper into the connection between terpenes, cannabinoids and different cannabis strains in our next post.)

This video below provides a good explanation of the science behind terpenes in edible products.

The Connection Between Terpenes and Cannabis Strains/Chemovars

You may be wondering about the connection between terpenes and cannabis strains (also called chemovars). Does an indica strain contain more linalool than a sativa? What strain has the highest caryophyllene amounts?

In our next post, we’ll look at the connection between terpenes and cannabis strains/chemovars.

Subscribe to our newsletter below and stay up-to-date on Leaf411 events and information. 

Have questions about cannabis? Our nurses can help! Call our free, anonymous hotline at 844-LEAF411 (844-532-3411).

The Leaf411 cannabis nurse hotline provides free education and directional support to the general public about the safe use of legal cannabis. We partner with select business members who meet our rigorous standards to extend our education and outreach efforts.