I had the pleasure of interviewing Dr. Elaine Burns, founder and medical director of Southwest Medical Marijuana Evaluation Centers and CEO of DrBurns’ ReLeaf™ product line.
Thank you so much for doing this with us! What is your “backstory”? How did you first get into this business or get interested in the business?
I am a naturopathic physician with a background in botanical medicine. When the medical marijuana (MMJ) program passed in Arizona, I knew there would be a need for qualified and educated physicians to counsel and certify patients to use cannabis as a therapeutic agent. So, I opened up my first center in Scottsdale, Ariz. Right on the heels of that, I opened my second center in north Phoenix and, more recently, my third center in Avondale, Ariz. In addition to my experience with botanical medicine, I have kept myself current with the science and evolving field of cannabinoid medicine. In 2012, I became the first physician in Arizona to be certified by the American Academy of Cannabinoid Medicine.
Can you share the funniest or most interesting story that happened to you since you started your company?
Cannabinoid physicians really toe the line when it comes to legality issues, so this is not for the faint of heart. When we first opened, it was common for undercover DEA officers to pose as patients or reporters to come in and do undercover video-taping. When Arizona’s MMJ Act passed in 2011, it was straight out of the “Chicken Little” story and the sky was falling. We have come a long way. Just about seven years later, I am being invited into very well-known conventional physician groups, such as Banner Alzheimer’s Institute, Banner Neurological Institute and Barrow Neurologic Institute, to educate mainstream physicians regarding the science and therapeutic potentials of cannabis.
What do you think makes your company stand out? Can you share a story?
Our Medical Marijuana Evaluation centers stand out because we have always focused on the medical benefits of cannabis. We treat patients with the same dignity and respect they would find in any other physician’s office. We do not trivialize nor “recreational-ize” this modality; There are no loud rock music or recreational overtones in our offices. Patients often share that their experience with us is professional, informative and felt like a medical office experience. My answer to that is we are a medical office, not a pot-doc establishment.
None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story?
Absolutely! My business partner and son, Timothy Burns. In the beginning, we had issues because as I have been told by psychotherapists that this type of relationship, being in business with a child or parent, is very challenging. I feel blessed that we have been able to move beyond and learn ways to work together and not get into the earlier power struggles we had. I attribute this to the fact that we both respect one another and, at the end of the day our relationship as mother and son is much more important than our business one. If at any time I felt that would have been in major jeopardy, I would have gladly changed the business situation and stepped down.

Growing a cannabis business CBD Southwest Medical Marijuana Evaluation Centers and DrBurns’ ReLeaf™

Are you working on any exciting projects now?
Yes, several.
I launched a newly formulated cannabis infused product line — DrBurns’ ReLeaf™
I am working with a chemistry professor at Arizona State University to come up with testing standards
I am working on a pilot study with dementia patients utilizing one of my DrBurns’ ReLeaf™ formulations with a physician at Banner Boswell Hospital
Can you share 3 things that most excite you about the Cannabis industry? Can you share 3 things that most concern you?
1. Knowing that is medicine can help people get better, not high
2. (and 3.) Educating and advocating people about dealing with all the stigmas of cannabis use by focusing on and presenting the science. I always follow the science, not the folklore.
1. Immense lack of regulatory oversite regarding the medicine that patients use. In Arizona, for example, it is not mandatory that medicine be tested for contaminants or accuracy of potency. This is why DrBurns’ ReLeaf™ products are tested by batch and results posted on website for complete transparency.
2. Lack of understanding of the science and or medical issues of the agents dispensing the medication. No one will lethally overdose due to a dispensing agent being uneducated, but many potential adverse side effects could occur and there is no certification or training that could help that be avoided.
3. The recreational overtones that are within the medical marijuana industry. There shouldn’t be a blurred line between recreational and medical products.
Can you share your top “5 things you need to know in order to succeed in the Cannabis industry”? Please share a story or example for each.
There is just one fundamental thing: Understand and know the federal and state laws. Some people getting into the industry have no idea that even something as simple as banking and merchant services will not be available or, at the very least, challenging.
Something every buyer should know is that this industry draws in a lot of people who want to get rich quickly. The Green Rush brings a high risk of integrity issues; Be cautious.
In our experience when people are passionate about what they do they are more successful, where does you cannabis passion come from?
I think that has been answered throughout the previous questions. My passion comes from a medical perspective. People do not have to consume large quantities for the benefits of cannabis, and I want to help people get better.
Where do you see your business going in the next 5 years? Where do you see the cannabis industry going in the next 5 years?
I see my product line expanding into the national market.
I am writing a book that will be launched later this year called “Weed Out Opioid Addiction.”
I believe the federal government will have to declassify CBD and THC. There is a medication Nabiximols (GW Pharmaceuticals) for the treatment of MS and neuropathic pain that is currently being fast tracked through the FDA. It is a 1:1 cannabis plant extract, not synthetic like Marinol.
Do you have an opinion on full adult use vs. medical and the political back and forth. We’d love to hear your thoughts on how that will affect the industry in the near future.
I am focused on the medical side of cannabis, and I am on the fence about adult use. As an individual, I have no issues with adult use. As a physician, I am concerned it muddies the water and validity of cannabis from a medical standpoint. Most people will say that the medical program was just a Trojan horse for adult use. I feel that the acknowledgement of cannabis’ medical benefits will end up taking a few steps back when adult use becomes universal. There is no known equivalent — No adult use narcotics with a parallel medical use.
This was very inspiring. Thank you so much for joining us!