BY RUTH HILL R.N.
The American Nurses Association (ANA), representing the interests of the nation’s more than 5 million nurses, announced on September 27, 2023, the formal recognition of cannabis nursing as a nursing specialty. Cannabis nursing is identified by the American Cannabis Nurses Association (ACNA) as a specialty nursing practice focused on the care of healthcare consumers seeking education and guidance in the therapeutic use of cannabis.
“ANA is pleased to officially recognize cannabis nursing practice as a nursing specialty,” said ANA President Jennifer Mensik Kennedy, Ph.D., MBA, RN, NEA-BC, FAAN. “This recognition highlights the essential role and special contribution of cannabis nurses to the health care system and promotes enhanced integration of cannabis therapies for health care consumers across diverse health care settings.”
ACNA’s mission is to advance excellence in cannabis nursing practice through advocacy, collaboration, education, research, and policy development. ANA supports the urgency of clinical research to inform patients and providers about the efficacy of marijuana and related cannabinoids. In an official position, ANA addresses the roles and responsibilities of nurses related to the use of cannabinoids for health care and recognizes the potential for cannabinoids to be used in disease treatment and symptom management.
The ANA’s announcement is yet another example of the growing mainstream acceptance of cannabis in health care, throughout the U.S. In September, Gonzaga University began offering two cannabis certificate programs including one focusing on cannabis and health care. “The reason we went into this is because there is an educational gap. We see ourselves as an institution that is here to provide education,” Rachelle Strawther, director of Gonzaga’s Center for Lifelong Learning told the Inlander in August. “We’re trying to help reduce the stigma surrounding cannabis because people need to have good information to make decisions for themselves.”
In 2018, the National Council of State Boards of Nursing (NCSBN) stated that nursing professionals and students should be educated on six principles of essential knowledge about cannabis:
- Current state of legislation and of medical and recreational cannabis use.
- Federal laws and current legislation around patient use of medical cannabis,
- The endocannabinoid system (ECS),
- Safety considerations, and,
- Ways to approach patients without judgment regarding the patient’s choice of treatment.
Unfortunately, in Coachella Valley, the medical hospitals, home health, and hospice agencies have resisted my pleas to present education to their nurses on medical cannabis. The reason given is, “It is against Federal law.” These hospitals are all accredited by the Accreditation Commission for Health Care (ACHC). What does this accreditation mean when Eisenhower Medical Center, Desert Reginal Hospital, and JFK Hospital deny their nurse professionals the knowledge to perform their duties?
According to the Desert Healthcare District, 16% of adults in Coachella Valley use cannabis. They did not delineate how much use medicinal cannabis. Their focus is on the number of dispensaries and the number of drug users who are admitted to treatment facilities. However, the dependence liability for cannabis is 9% the same as Ativan. Whereas for opioids and cigarettes, it is 30+%, Alcohol 15%, and Heroin 23%.
Dr. Ziva Cooper leads the UCLA Cannabis Research Initiative, dedicated to the research and education of cannabis and cannabinoids since 2020. This year they received five grants from the CA Department of Cannabis Control. USC in San Diego has a similar department titled UCS Schaeffer. There is also a Maternal Cannabis Lab at USC. Doctors and nurses at renowned medical universities are researching and treating patients with medical cannabis. It seems Coachella Valley may be the heart of cannabis cultivation and a friendly attitude for dispensaries and lounges but is stuck in the Reefer Madness of 1972 by the physicians who control referrals.