Cannabis Nurses: What are they and what do they do?
Happy Nurses Week! I’m extremely proud to be a cannabis nurse, but it’s not a path I ever expected to journey down. In fact, a little over half a decade ago, when I was a hospice nurse, I didn’t even know cannabis nursing existed.
If you had told me then, about the American Cannabis Nurses Association (ACNA) –a REAL nonprofit professional nursing organization, recognized by the Nursing Organization Alliance (NOA)–I probably would have laughed. Years later, I’m on the Board of Directors.
Like many healthcare professionals, I discovered cannabis nursing by becoming a patient first. In the beginning, I was VERY hesitant to try medical cannabis–a lot of that resistance I blame on my training as a nurse and the inaccurate information I was previously taught about cannabis.
When I finally tried medical marijuana, I experienced remarkable results. I knew I had to share information about this medicine with others, and that’s when I began my journey into cannabis nursing.
The world’s most trusted profession is transforming cannabis, and I”m honored to be part of it.
What is a cannabis nurse?
A cannabis nurse is a formally educated, licensed nurse who has received specialized training in cannabis therapeutics. Cannabis nurses have a working knowledge of the endocannabiniod system and understand the nuances of utilizing cannabis as a medicine.
The ACNA has officially defined the scope and standards of practice for cannabis nurses.
The document states, “Cannabis nursing is both a learned skill and a practiced art, where the cannabis nurse builds upon expertise from previous experiences with healing and nursing while enacting reflective practices to support growth toward expertise.”
How Do You Become a Cannabis Nurse?
First, you need a nursing license. If you haven’t been through nursing school and taken the boards, that’s the first thing you need to do. LPNs, RNs, BSNs, NPs, DNPs, etc. can all become cannabis nurses.
The most important thing a cannabis nurse needs after their nursing license, is specialized education in cannabis therapeutics.
There are a many of ways to learn about cannabis therapeutics. Online programs offer ease of access. Radicle Health offers an excellent online cannabis course. The course was created by the ACNA’s current President, Eloise Thiesen.
Pacific College of Health and Science offers a more formal structured cannabis education program specifically for healthcare professionals.
Unfortunately there’s also a lot of junk cannabis training programs available so use caution before choosing one. Remember, there’s no official cannabis certification. If a course promises to certify you, it’s a marketing gimmick.
Take Radicle Health’s Course: Advanced Science and Therapeutics
Medical conferences are another great way to gain cannabis knowledge. The Cannabis Nurse Network Conference and The Cannabis Care Conference are excellent places to learn about cannabis and to network with other cannabis nurses. There are a variety of other cannabis and science conferences: The Cannabis Science Conference and CannaMed are excellent conferences to attend.
Is there a certification for cannabis nurses?
There is currently NO official certification for cannabis nurses. However, the American Cannabis Nurses Association is actively working with the American Nurses Credentialing Center (ANCC) to deem cannabis nursing an official sub-specialty and to create a formal credentialing process. We DO expect a formal cannabis nursing certification in the future.
We’ve seen positive signs of cannabis nursing becoming more accepted by our governing agencies. Questions about cannabis nursing are not currently included on the state nursing boards, however the National Council of State Boards of Nursing’s (NCSBN) has released official guidelines regarding the nursing care of a patient using medical marijuana.
Currently, most formal nursing education programs do not include cannabis therapeutics in their curriculum, however the NCSBN has released guidelines encouraging schools to teach future nurses about the endocannabinoid system and the basics about cannabis therapeutics. Medical Marijuana Education in Pre-Licensure Nursing Programs.
What do cannabis nurses do?
Cannabis nurses serve in a variety of capacities. Let me start by saying, finding a career exclusively in cannabis nursing can be challenging. There aren’t a ton of direct hire cannabis nursing jobs. Cannabis therapeutics is still a developing area of medicine.
Many cannabis nurses are forging their own path, and some continue to maintain their regular nursing careers, while they gradually segway into the cannabis industry.
I work in cannabis full time. Personally, most of my work as a cannabis nurse, is done here on my site, MarijuanaMommy.com. A lot of my workdays are spent writing and completing the back-end details that go into running an online health resource.
I also write about cannabis and health for a variety of publications. My work’s been seen in places like Cosmopolitan, Entrepreneur, and The New Jersey Star Ledger. I consult with cannabis companies and my favorite work is coaching new cannabis patients. I’ve created an online course for new cannabis patients and offer tele-health consulting services to patients.
One of the most important roles of the cannabis nurse is to educate other healthcare professionals. I love teaching cannabis-focused classes and workshops for other healthcare professionals.
But the job opportunities for cannabis nurses expand beyond that.
Cannabis nurses like Jessilyn Dolan, have started their own cannabis-focused businesses. Dolan is co-founder of NurseGrown Organics a premier CBD company out of Vermont. Hemp is legally sold in many areas; many cannabis nurses have forged a career selling CBD products.
Cannabis nurses like Stephanie Reifkind Kahn, have started their own cannabis dispensaries. Takoma Wellness Center is a beloved family run dispensary in Washington DC. Other nurses are employed by dispensaries, offering them the opportunity to interact with patients at the point of sale. (I want to add that most of the nurses I know working in dispensaries, unfortunately have taken a paycut to work in the cannabis industry full-time.)
Other cannabis nurses have opened their own consulting practices. Cannabis nurse, Kebra Smith is the founder of CannaHealth where she certifies new cannabis patients in CT. The GreenNurse Group is doing excellent work in Massachusetts. Cannabis nurse, Janna Champagne has built a successful international practice in Oregon.
Many cannabis nurses dedicate their time to advocate for legalization. Cannabis nurse, Ken Wolski, is founder of the Coalition for Medical Marijuana – New Jersey. Wolski has been a monumental force in the fight for legalization and patient rights.
Cannabis nurse, Heather Sobel, created a networking organization exclusively for cannabis nurses, The Cannabis Nurse Network.
The possibilities for cannabis nurses are endless but may require creativity and bravery to embark on the journey.
How do I find a cannabis nurse?
There are two professional organizations focused on cannabis nurses. If you’re a nurse you should join us. If you’re searching for other cannabis nurses, these are great places to find them:
Cannabis nursing is a fast-growing (unofficial) sub-specialty of nursing. As legalization continues to sweep the globe, it’s becoming more important for nurses to become educated about the details of cannabis therapeutics. We expect demand to grow rapidly in the coming years. Cannabis nursing is a cutting-edge industry that offers nurses a chance to make real impact. If you’re interested in this sub-specialty, now is an ideal time to get involved and become a cannabis nurse.
New to cannabis? Read my Beginners Guide to Medical Marijuana