While more and more people are being prescribed medical cannabis, we don't know much about why it works - and even less about how certain strains work for specific ailments.
The makers of a new app, Releaf, are hoping to provide a better framework for medical users to track what types of cannabis work best for them. Founded in 2015 by Branden Hall, Franco Brockelman, and Keenan Keeling, Releaf could regiment a process that, for most patients, has been of necessity based on trial-and-error.
Not your average pain-tracking app
The founders of Releaf, from left to right: CEO Franco Brockelman, CTO Branden Hall, and CIO Keenan Keeling.
Co-founder Franco Brockelman became deeply interested in medical cannabis after his mother was diagnosed with psoriatic arthritis, which "stops you from moving around, and causes a lot of ripple-effect things that affect your life negatively," he tells Civilized.
"As I started seeing her degrade, she wasn't getting a lot of help from traditional medicines. She had four doctors and a lot of medications that were, at best, delaying the pain for four hours, making her feel weird, and then it all would flood right back."
She resisted her son's advice to try medical cannabis for several months. As she says in an account of her story on the company website, "my father wouldn't even let me watch The Ed Sullivan Show when The Beatles were on, for goodness sake!"
She eventually relented and allowed Brockelman to get her set up with a license; however, he soon realized "there was a huge lack of tools and info to get started. So that's where the tool idea was born - to help track the cannabis people have tried. It's a tool to help aggregate and collect that data and make it easier for people, on a personal level."
Releaf, unlike other pain-tracking apps, is more cute and user-friendly than clinical and scientific. Users download the free app, pick the primary symptom they're treating and equipment they're using, and start the session. For between 20 minutes and four hours, you're asked to hit a button when you take a puff, then use the slider to record how you're feeling.
"[The app is] all about users figuring out what works for them," says Hall. "With any psychoactive drug you're supplied, diet, lifestyle and a host of other factors [influence] how the drug affects you. Cannabis, fortunately, is safe enough that you can experiment: if you were to go on an anti-depressant, you'd have to work carefully with your doctor on dosage and timing. None of that is in place for cannabis users."
"We're trying to give people that framework."
'Integrating cannabis into your life'
releafapp.com / Franco Brockelman
Another goal of Releaf is to help people minimizing side effects.
"Just as important to reducing your symptoms," says Hall, "is integrating cannabis into your life. If it's reducing your pain, but it's also blowing up your appetite and you're consuming too many calories, it's not fitting into your life."
"Tracking those effects allows you how to make better choices," he says. "Recognizing that when you use a certain strain, you're going to want to eat a whole pizza an hour later, let's say. If you know that, then you know to have a salad or some fresh fruit prepared ahead of time."
What do they plan on doing with all the data they've collected?
"We anonymize the data we receive on the back end," says Hall, "and then we're looking to get the data we use to make other products. We want to make a virtual budtender, and more products in the field beyond straight flower: vape pens, edibles, and so on. Once we've established a good user base we'll be working with brands to figure that out."
After two weeks in the app store, Releaf has logged over 400+ users and 862 sessions The Android version will be released in July.
banner image: releafapp.com / Franco Brockelman