Cannabis for the Clinic

American Cannabis Nursing Association Cannabis Now

Nurses and healthcare professionals are learning more about how marijuana works as a medicine through the ACNA.


While not yet available at the corner drugstore, medical cannabis has definitely become a part of mainstream culture in the U.S. Everyone, it seems, knows about the plant’s medical uses and most of the population supports medical access.

At this point, so many states have decriminalized to some degree that it’s easier to just list the states that don’t have some kind of a medical cannabis law — North Dakota, South Dakota, Nebraska, Kansas, Indiana, West Virginia, Texas and Idaho — than it is to list all of the states that do.

The success of today’s medical cannabis movement is at least partially rooted in the early ’90s, when the endogenous cannabinoid system (ECS) was first discovered.

The importance of this discovery cannot be over-stated. The ECS, which creates cannabinoid-like substances in nearly all living things, has been determined as the regulatory workhorse in the human body — it literally helps to keep us in balance.

The biological process the ECS uses to maintain balance is called homeostasis. When the body cannot create enough of its own cannabinoids to maintain this process, the cannabis plant becomes a supplement or a medicine.

Obviously there is some complexity involved in this process, and that has led to an explosion of research and a quantum increase of interest from the medical community. It has become clear that the recreational model of dispensing cannabis as medicine is inadequate for the vast population of current and potential medical cannabis patients.

Budtenders are fine people, but they generally aren’t qualified to advise patients on proper cannabis use for the treatment of complex ailments like chronic pain, epilepsy, diabetes or cancer. That’s a job for trained healthcare professionals, and a growing number of physicians and nurses are focusing their practice entirely on medical cannabis.

The American Cannabis Nurses Association (ACNA) is a professional association of nurses who are interested in advancing “excellence in cannabis nursing practice through advocacy, collaboration, education, research and policy development.”

The ACNA was founded by nurse Ed Glick and Mary Lynn Mathre, RN, as a nursing organization that represents professional nurses and provides educational tools to assist them in understanding and advocating for their patients’ medical cannabis needs.

In January 2015, the association had just under 200 members. Two years later membership stands at more than 500.

The group has flourished in recent years and has been “putting its house in order” as it tends to administrative matters such as acquiring federal tax-exemption and launching an online core curriculum that significantly expands opportunities for nurses around the globe to become educated in basic medical cannabis topics. For nurses in the U.S. and Canada, the course offers continuing education units.

Current ACNA president, Eileen Konieczny, sees a bright future for the organization.

“Our goal, admittedly long-term, is to have cannabis nursing recognized as a sub-specialty by the ANA and to provide certification for our members,” she said. “Medical cannabis is that imperative.”

Originally published in Issue 25 of Cannabis Now. LEARN MORE

TELL US, do you think the medical community should be more involved with cannabis therapies?

Alice O’Leary-Randall is the widow of Robert C. Randall, the acknowledged founder of the medical cannabis movement. She lives in Sarasota, Florida and is a retired hospice nurse. Since retirement, she has returned to the fight for medical cannabis on many fronts. She serves as the medical cannabis ambassador for Mary’s Medicinals and on the Board of Directors for Mary's Foundation of Caring. Additionally she is on the Board of Directors for the American Cannabis Nurses Association. She is the executive editor for Mary's Cannabis Primer and a frequent contributor to Cannabis Now Magazine and Huffington Post. She is the author of two books on the medical cannabis issue. Medical Marijuana in America:Memoir of a Pioneer is an autobiography published in 2014. In 1998 she and her late husband co-authored Marijuana Rx: The Patients' Fight for Medicinal Pot.

1 Comment

  1. Martha Anderson

    August 10, 2017 at 8:06 am

    This was very informative. I am currently using medical marijuana for a health condition and it works so well. I am still a little wary of the atmosphere surrounding recreational use but I think it has a lot of good benefits. I am learning how to use products that mask the marijuana smell when I got out because although I love the effects I am not a big fan of the smell.

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