Log in

Get your medical card online in minutes!

Get started

Meet Leafwell’s Chief Operating Officer, Luke Macfarlan

luke macfarlan

We sat down with Luke Macfarlan, Leafwell‘s Chief Operating Officer, to ask about some major developments planned for the company.

Macfarlan shared that Leafwell is beginning to submit original cannabis research papers for pre-publication. He also offered valuable insights and advice for those interested in entering the cannabis industry.

What Is a Chief Operating Officer?

It can be different across different industries, but in the case of Leafwell, it means I wear the hat of the Head of Product.

I also help operate the typical business units found in any company, such as finance, HR, accounting, and other related departments.

What Does a Typical Day Look Like for You?

My day typically involves reviewing the teams’ performance and how we’re doing against our benchmarks and goals. Then, I examine the prioritization of exercises or features we’ve already defined.

There’s also new strategy development, examining the competitive landscape, the company’s performance, and the macroeconomics of the environment and establishing what we should plan for execution in the future.

How Did You Start Working for Leafwell?

Emily reached out to me on LinkedIn and asked if I would be interested in joining the company as its head of product. Admittedly, I was skeptical at first.

I had never used cannabis in my life. Until then, I’d been a United States military officer for 20 years, worked in technology for 20 years, and worked in rapid development and prototyping for the Department of Defence.

However, my brother went through a round of chemotherapy to fight cancer recently. He was recommended medical cannabis to help manage a very acute issue that he was having with nausea.

Between that and the fact that I was looking for a next opportunity in product development — and the fact that the whole rest of my family is in medicine; it’s something that’s very, very close to my heart — I responded Emily thinking, ‘Well, let’s just check this out.’

It turned out to be an incredible opportunity. She’s a fantastic leader. We’re in a fantastic space — we’re coming out of a prohibition period — and it was just too good to pass up.

Are There Any Exciting Developments Coming up for the Company?

The things I’m most excited about are that we’ve got maybe 250,000 total patients, and we’ve been collecting information and looking at some research outcomes with our epidemiologist.

We’re starting to push papers and findings into pre-pub. That will start a flywheel where we set ourselves apart as more of a medical or therapeutic-focused company within this industry.

We’re trying to use cannabis as medicine with observational feedback from the market to drive better outcomes for our patients.

How Does the Cannabis Industry Compare To Other Industries You’ve Worked In?

The cannabis industry is similar to other industries in which I’ve worked in the past in that there’s a lot of craftsmanship and people who are deeply mission-aligned to an outcome.

At Leafwell, that’s decriminalizing cannabis, making it available to people, undoing what was done during the War on Drugs, and making people realize that it’s useful as part of a total health package for many, many people.

The cannabis industry is different in the sense that because people have had to take on so much risk and cannabis has been illegal for so long, there’s a lot of opportunity for growth and development beyond the workable solutions that have been put in place.

One way of saying this is that we don’t have a really mature technology stack or banking stack. However, as things become reregulated or deregulated, we have many, many opportunities to advance the industry.

And then the most challenging part is just changing people’s perception of what cannabis is.

It’s one thing to have worked for a company like Starbucks, which changed people’s perceptions of coffee, but there was no legal issue there.

There were no impacts on your life if you were a pilot, truck driver, nurse, or federal employee like there is with cannabis. So there’s a lot of work in the product, the business, and the industry.

I would say there’s even more work to continue carrying out the research, like what Leafwell is trying to do, to consumers and regulators to demonstrate that there’s application for therapeutic and medicinal cannabis use.

What’s Your Favorite Part About Working in the Cannabis Industry?

Two things are particularly rewarding about working in the cannabis industry.

We’re an international workforce being leveraged to make change. Leafwell’s team includes people worldwide who help advance the cause. Although the market is limited to the U.S. for now, that may change in the future.

You’ve already got Germany and Mexico looking very closely at what is happening in the United States of America as they consider how to enter the medical or recreational markets.

The second thing is that working with other people who are very passionate about what you’re trying to do gives you hope and purpose in your day-to-day work. That’s true both inside and outside the company.

Inside the company, we’ve got people who believe in cannabis as medicine. We don’t believe that it’s perfect. There are probably some cases of harm, but we’re interested in the science and proving out where it’s useful and where it’s not so we can help avoid bad outcomes while finding the best-case scenarios.

Many people in the public realm also don’t know how to use it and really need relief.

Those people are going through palliative care. They’re being ushered over death’s doorstep. There are people who are in acute pain from, you know, acute type of medical conditions. Some people are in, you know, chronic situations. Some folks have severe psychological conditions.

And I think that there’s some path for me in my life where I grew up going on house calls with my father or being dropped off in the cafeteria of the hospital and wandering around — just because that’s what life as the kid of a doctor is like — where I’m coming back around full circle.

I get to play in an industry that I believe is ultimately about alleviating suffering and creating a better life for everybody we work with.

Do You Have Any Advice for People Who Want To Join the Cannabis Industry?

Anything worth doing requires taking on risk. And that risk can be different for different people.

Some might say the cannabis industry doesn’t compensate as well, or there’s a cultural risk. But when you put your life and finances in order and your career aspirations in a place where you’re willing to take controlled risks, the rewards are magnificent.

You can also have tough outcomes. But I would still generally say that for anyone considering cannabis and this industry, you already have some inkling happening.

You’re restless in the place you’re in today. And if that’s grinding up through a large company, there are few of those here.

There’s a lot to be done. If you have a tickle of interest, I encourage you to reach out and find ways to contribute.

Final Thoughts?

Leafwell is doing some incredible stuff. We are not just a telemedicine medical card provider. We mean what we say about our mission, and it’s a long, long mission.

It requires reinvesting company profits and working longer hours than the average. It’s not just about work-life balance.

If you’re interested in really advancing the cause of cannabis as medicine, reach out. Join us at Leafwell. Let’s change the world.

This interview has been lightly edited for concision and readability. Stay tuned for more Behind the Leafwell Curtain interviews, and check out our patient stories series on YouTube to hear medical marijuana patients talk about their journeys with cannabis in their own words.

Keep Reading