Cannabis nursing officially recognized as a specialty field

The use of cannabis as medicine was given a major boost in legitimacy last week when the American Nurses Association formally recognized cannabis nursing as a specialty nursing practice.

"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," ANA President Jennifer Mensik Kennedy said in a statement.

Cannabis nursing will now have the same level of recognition from the ANA as other specialties such as neonatal and hospice nursing.

The ANA is a professional organization representing more than 5 million nurses across the country. A similar organization focusing strictly on cannabis nurses, the American Cannabis Nurses Association (ACNA), has recognized the specialty since 2010.

"Cannabis nursing requires specialized knowledge and competencies to navigate care and address the stigma associated with medical cannabis use to support a healthy society," ACNA President Rachel Parmelee was quoted as saying in the ANA's statement.

In 2021, the ANA issued an official position statement on the therapeutic use of cannabis in which the organization noted that cannabis and cannabis derivatives are used to alleviate disease symptoms and side effects. That position statement also called for the removal of cannabis from the Schedule I of the federal Controlled Substances Act, a move which has been gaining steam in the Biden administration. Such a move would stop short of full legalization but would allow for easier research into cannabis.

The ANA's announcement is yet another example of the growing mainstream acceptance of cannabis in health care, including locally.

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."

Gonzaga's program is designed to help educate health care providers of all kinds on cannabis, its effects on the body and its potential for therapeutic use. Like Gonzaga's certificates, last week's move from the ANA brings added legitimacy to the field commonly known as medical marijuana.

Now, in 2023, that field is considerably more integrated into mainstream health care than it was in 1996 when California became the first state to legalize medical marijuana. ♦

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