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.