By Ruth Hill R.N.
Would you, give your parent medical marijuana? Does medical marijuana fry your brain cells? Is it a gateway drug for addiction? Or is it a hoax for people to get recreational marijuana? Will measures to reduce the opioid epidemic affect access to medical marijuana? These and many other questions will hopefully make for a lively discussion on these pages in the coming weeks. My intent today, and in future CV Weekly issues, is to have an ongoing conversation about the myths vs. the legitimate uses of marijuana. Only the science of cannabis will ensure safe access for medicinal use.
A little background about me: I have fifty years experience in nursing, having graduated from the University of Connecticut with a baccalaureate degree in nursing. I have been certified in hospice and palliative care for the last ten years and have been educating nurses, patients and families on the relief of all manner of suffering related to most diseases. This background puts me in a unique position to educate on the science of cannabis. I believe the use of cannabis, in the next ten years, will become as ubiquitous as Tylenol.
Reviewing the landscape here in the valley, we see growers receiving a very favorable business climate in both Desert Hot Springs and Coachella. Cultivation of different strains of cannabis is expanding. Growers ship to qualified labs in CA, where the numerous products are measured, tested, and formulated into pills, tinctures, capsules, and vapes. Easy access for obtaining a recommendation for medicinal use has a negative effect on the conversation, resulting in an outright dismissal of the medicinal benefits. Are we to believe the bud guy or gal when they claim “medical marijuana” cures: cancer, epilepsy, eczema, Alzheimer’s, dementia, Parkinson’s, arthritis, nausea, vomiting, anxiety, insomnia, diabetes, etc.?
Cannabis/marijuana is used interchangeably in our laws and our conversations. This loose terminology, the lack of expertise from the dispensary personnel, and the federal and state laws prohibiting cannabis use, all muddy any coherent understanding for the average person. Information is bombarding us in every direction. At times, I feel like I’m being transported back to the early 1900s, when someone comes into town selling snake oil for every malady. I too ask myself: “How can one plant be used for every ailment known to man?”
Normally we would turn to our physicians for information on drugs. Unfortunately they, along with pharmacists, have been prohibited from prescribing cannabis due to fear of prosecution. The Federal Government reclassified marijuana as a Schedule I drug, meaning marijuana and cannabis are lumped in with heroin and LSD as having no medicinal value, therefore making growing, researching and prescribing illegal.
Visionary physicians like Dr. Frank Lucido of Berkley CA, and his nurse practitioner Maria Mangini, have been pushing back for over fifty years. They are proving, with their scientific and judicious use of cannabis for neurological diseases, that conventional wisdom is no longer relevant. The range of uses for cannabis has now turned it into a medical product specificity requiring advanced clinical knowledge. Cannabis use in pets has only begun to touch the surface of possibilities. Nursing specialties have evolved. We now have an organization called American Cannabis Nurses Association (ACNA), whose mission is to educate nurse providers on the safe use of cannabis. Israel has been growing and researching cannabis since 1968. They are now exporting products all over the world. Israeli physicians are aggressively prescribing it for multiple diseases.
I believe this is an exciting time in our health industry. “The idea that this is an evil drug is a recent construction and the fact that it is illegal is a historical anomaly,” explains Barney Warf, a University of Kansas geography professor. Nurses will become the cannabis angels, who dare to embrace and erase this historical anomaly. A new window of hope for treating disease is here, if we want it. We need only sift through the fog, focus on the miracle of the plant and influence the government to remove the research barriers. Will we lead in discovering unheard of uses for many of our current maladies, or will we freeze in place due to bureaucratic gridlock? Let’s continue to explore together.
Direct responses to firstname.lastname@example.org or @RuthAHillRN