How a Lack of Cannabis Research Inspired Entrepreneur Stephanie Karasick
Republished with permission from Hempster an Evio Community Partner
Once a recreational cannabis consumer, Stephanie Karasick gave it up because she didn’t like smoking. Now, twenty years later, she has embraced vaporizing cannabis as a way to manage her anxiety and depression.
Frustrated by how little research-backed information she could find on cannabis treatments, she founded Strainprint, an app that helps patients monitor their doses and strain effects to determine their ideal medicine.
Born and raised in Montreal, Stephanie now lives in Toronto with her husband and two daughters. Here is Stephanie, in her own words.
My (re)introduction to cannabis came out of a conversation with my psychiatrist about 4 years ago. I’d tried cannabis in my 20s and while I liked the way it made me feel, I did not like smoking, so it never stuck. Twenty years later, it was suggested to me as a possible way to help mitigate some of the pervasive thoughts, anxiety and depression I’d battled most of my life. There was also this newer thing called vaping that was easier on the throat. I thought it was worth a shot.
In August of 2014, I was lucky enough to be one of Dr. Danial Schecter’s patients at his newly opened clinic. He gave me a brief overview of the endocannabinoid system(fascinating) and a prescription for 1 gram a day.
What I found so odd though, was that he really couldn’t provide me much more guidance in terms of which strains might work best for me. I’d grown up in a pharmacy (my dad is a pharmacist), so I was utterly baffled by the fact that there was really no treatment protocol for this medicine.
I blindly bought a few different strains and a vape and trepidatiously tried them. What I discovered was that some strains were far better than others for me. I spent hours on the internet, reading about THC and CBD and terpenes and cultivars (fancy new words!) as well as reviews on vaporizers and any studies I could find.
I started jotting down notes when I medicated, so I could remember, including how many puffs I’d taken, the time, which temperature settings and how I felt. There were noticeable differences. I brought my journal to the follow-up appointment and saw the look on the doctor’s face when he saw how seriously I was taking this and how well I seemed to be doing overall.
It was shortly after that visit that I started thinking (and wrote the idea down in my journal) that there should be some way to track your medicating digitally, just as I’d been tracking steps with my Fitbit. I brought this idea to my husband – who happens to have a digital marketing agency for the sports industry – and basically begged him to pay a programmer to build a prototype for me. He eventually agreed, and within a few months, we had something that I could demonstrate to people and gauge their interest. Once again, Dr. Schecter was very excited and supportive of this project.
I showed the prototype to a good friend of mine, Andrew Muroff, and he right away saw the value in what I was trying to create. He brought the idea to Dave Berg, who happens to be a brilliant data solutions architect. What he saw was a way we could anonymize all the tracked sessions and create a database of what’s working best for who.
We launched the Strainprint app (free on the App Store and Google Play) in early 2017 and in March of 2018, launched Strainprint Analytics, which is a software that sorts and filters all the data in very cool visualisations. We currently have close to 500,000 tracked sessions and are now the largest longitudinal study on medicinal cannabis in the world. Andrew, Dave, my husband Evan and I are partners and we’ve brought on a great team of passionate people to help grow the business.
I continue to use cannabis daily, which helps me to live a way better quality of life, to be a more present wife and mom. My daughters (now 10 and 12) know about my medicine and how I use it. There’s no shame in our home, it’s just a normal thing. They have seen me write notes to our users and helped me put packages together and helped me choose products to order for giveaways. My hope is that by the time they’re adults, cannabis will be used as a first-line treatment for many symptoms.
As a full-circle moment side note, Dr. Schecter has recently accepted a position on Strainprint’s medical advisory board. I couldn’t be happier to have this incredibly bright and dedicated physician advising us on how to make our product better and share our findings with the global medical community.