Fame Conway, RN, has seen firsthand how medical cannabis can be a game changer when it comes to fighting chronic illness. Decades of suffering from chronic inflammation and autoimmune disorders made it challenging for Conway to juggle her busy life as an operating room (OR) nurse and mother of two.

Resources for the Canna-Curious


The American Cannabis Nurses Association (ACNA) is currently the only professional nursing organization working towards being recognized by the American Nurses Association as a certifiable nursing sub-specialty. In conjunction with The Medical Cannabis Institute, ACNA offers an online course for nurses, as well as resources for nurses who want to learn more about medical cannabis and how it can be safely and effectively used to manage a patient’s health condition.

Patients Out of Time is a non-profit educational charity dedicated to educating health care professionals and the general public about the therapeutic use of cannabis and the ECS system. They hold an annual conference and offer educational resources and information on their site.

The Cannabis Nurses Network was formed in 2015 and offers professional development courses networking, professional recognition, and legal and medical advocacy.

Cansoom offers nurses and other medical professionals classes to become medical cannabis consultants. Founded by Lolita Korneagay, MBA, BSN, RN, Cansoom courses equip nurses with the knowledge they need to assist patients in consuming cannabis safely and effectively.

Cannabis Education Comes Full Circle

Vanessa Cruz, LPN, of Pueblo, Colorado, has always embraced traditional alternatives in health care. As a master herbalist and end-of-life doula, Cruz thought adding cannabis nurse to her extensive resume was a natural progression.

“I’ve been a nurse for over 15 years and have worked in hospice, home care, and in a hospital setting,” Cruz says. “In home care, I encountered a lot of patients who had heard about medical cannabis and had a lot of questions about whether it might benefit their health condition.”

Cruz took over 30 hours of continuing education courses through the ACNA and discovered that medical cannabis had the potential to treat a number of health conditions. She also joined the CNN to network with other nurses who had an interest in the field.

“As an end-of-life doula, I’ve found many patients who prefer medical cannabis over morphine because it can combat their pain with fewer side effects,” Cruz says. “It also helps patients who are terminally-ill and may be experiencing anxiety or nausea as a side effect of cancer treatments.”

While opioids can produce side effects such as constipation and nausea, and prolonged use can lead to addiction in some cases, Cruz says patients view cannabis as a more holistic alternative. She now offers paid consultations to clients through her business, Traditional Holistic Care.

“I meet with patients who are seeking direction on state-approved medical diagnoses for medical cannabis and have questions on how to obtain a medical cannabis card, and the right product and dosage for their medical condition,” Cruz says. “I’ve seen the potential cannabis has in treating seizure disorders [and] muscle spasms, such as those associated with multiple sclerosis.”

As it continues to grow in popularity, Cruz encourages all nurses to gain an understanding of the field and expand their knowledge of what it means to be a cannabis nurse.

“At some point, all nurses are going to encounter a patient who is using cannabis,” Cruz says. “It’s important for them to be able to determine if there are any potential cannabis-prescription drug interactions [and] how they can answer a patient’s questions and ensure the safe use of cannabis.”

 

Helping Patients Become Cannabis Confident

In Honolulu, Hawaii, Me Fuimaono-Poe, FNP-BC, serves as owner of the Malie Cannabis Clinic, a medical practice that provides marijuana education evaluations, education, and electronic approval for medical marijuana cards.

“We see patients with a wide variety of qualifying conditions, with the most common being pain,” Fuimaono-Poe says. “My youngest patient is about three months old and my oldest patient is 103.”

Fuimaono-Poe first became interested in cannabis after meeting Dennis Peron in 1997 at the first Cannabis Buyers Club in San Francisco. Peron, an American activist and businessman, was an early leader in the fight to legalize cannabis.

Her interest led her to take online classes through the ACNA and the CNN.

“I also attended several cannabis conferences throughout the United States so I can stay up on the latest research,” Fuimaono-Poe says. “There’s currently no certification for a cannabis nurse, but we’re working to change that. The ACNA has been actively involved in getting cannabis nursing to be seen as a nursing sub-specialty in the same way as diabetes, oncology, and critical care.”

In 2016, Fuimaono-Poe, who had previously worked in both a hospital and family medical practice, opened the Malie Cannabis Clinic, dedicated to educating patients about medical marijuana. She notes that even in states where medical cannabis isn’t yet legal, patients have questions about how cannabis might have the potential to help their specific health condition.

And since many dispensaries don’t have nurses on staff, nurses can counsel patients on potential drug interactions and how cannabis used in liquid form or through vaping, might be used as an effective replacement for opioids.

“We educate patients at every appointment on topics such as dosing information based on symptoms and side effects,” Fuimaono-Poe says. “If patients are prepared for the possibility of side effects, I feel like it decreases their fear around using cannabis.”

While acknowledging that on the whole medical cannabis is a safe and effective option, Fuimaono-Poe and her staff tell patients there’s a small risk of side effects.

“If medical marijuana patients stand up too quickly, they can get dizzy, so we let them know that that’s a possibility, and advise them to get up slowly,” she says. “Dry mouth can also be a side effect, so it’s important to stay hydrated and use an over-the-counter product dry mouth product such as Biotene if it becomes worse.”

Fuimaono-Poe believes all nurses should have a working knowledge of cannabis therapeutics.

“Nurses are educators, advocates, and caregivers, which make them a natural fit in the cannabis space,” Fuimaono-Poe says. “Some nurses work in dispensaries, some as health education consultants, and others actually cultivate cannabis.”

Looking to the future, Fuimaono-Poe says her hope is that cannabis nursing will soon become a sub-specialty and that one day in the near future there will be at least one cannabis nurse in every medical setting.

“I see cannabis nurses working in a position similar to a diabetes education nurse and helping to train both other staff members and patients on how to use cannabis safely and effectively,” she says. “Nurses are great at taking complex information and explaining it in terms that all patients can understand.”

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