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.”
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