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Professional Association Recognizes Cannabis Nursing as a Specialty Practice

The American Nurses Association (ANA) announced last week that it now formally recognizes cannabis nursing as a specialty practice. The professional association, which represents the interests of the more than 5 million nurses in the nation, also noted that cannabis nursing is identified by the American Cannabis Nurses Association (ACNA) as a specialty nursing practice focused on the health care of consumers seeking education and guidance in the therapeutic use of cannabis.

“ANA is pleased to officially recognize cannabis nursing practice as a nursing specialty,” ANA President Jennifer Mensik Kennedy, PhD, MBA, RN, NEA-BC, FAAN said in a September 27 statement from the organization. “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.”

Cannabis Nursing’s Mission

The mission of the ACNA is to advance the field of cannabis nursing through advocacy, collaboration, education, research and policy development. The professional association, which was first formally registered as a nonprofit organization in 2010, also works to contribute to the broader areas of nursing practice and patient care.

“We are deeply gratified by the groundbreaking establishment of cannabis nursing as an ANA-recognized nursing specialty. Nurses are the largest group of health professionals, providing an opportunity to change the health care paradigm and include diverse wellness modalities beyond traditional Western medicine,” said ACNA President Rachel Parmelee MSN, RN, CNE, AHN-BC. “Cannabis nursing requires specialized knowledge and competencies to navigate care and address the stigma associated with medical cannabis use to support a healthy society. We seek to create lasting, transformative change that enriches both specialized and general nursing practices, ultimately serving the well-being of patients nationwide.”

The ANA has supported providing safe access to therapeutic marijuana and related cannabinoids for over 20 years. The association is the sole reviewing body of specialty nursing scope of practice and standards of practice, requests for specialty recognition, and affirmation of focused practice competencies. In 2021, the ANA issued an official policy statement affirming that cannabis and cannabis derivatives are used to alleviate disease symptoms and side effects. The position statement called for a scientific review of marijuana’s status as a Schedule I drug under the Controlled Substances Act and suggested that cannabis instead be listed as a Schedule II drug, which would facilitate research into the medical benefits of cannabis.

The ANA’s policy statement also called for the development of prescribing standards including “indications for use, specific dose, route, expected effect and possible side effects, as well as indications for stopping a medication” and evidenced-based standards for the medical use of cannabis and cannabinoids. Additionally, the position statement called for legal protection from criminal or civil penalties for patients who use cannabis and cannabinoids medicinally. Similarly, the statement called for protection from prosecution or civil penalties, as well as freedom from professional sanctions such as the loss of licensing or credentials for healthcare practitioners who discuss treatment alternatives concerning marijuana or who prescribe, dispense or administer marijuana in accordance with professional standards and state laws.

The ANA announcement comes as the benefits of cannabis become more well known among patients and more professionals gain knowledge of the subject. In September, Gonzaga University in Spokane, Washington 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. “We’re trying to help reduce the stigma surrounding cannabis because people need to have good information to make decisions for themselves.”

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