How nurses can adapt to cannabis legalization

There is a new movement of medical practitioners, make way for the rise of the cannabis nurse!

The Rise of the Cannabis Nurse.

There is a new movement of medical practitioners, making way for the rise of the cannabis nurse! Coming out of the cannabis closet has opened many doors and conversations with many people. And conversations with medical practitioners have been the most interesting by far.

Recently, I reconnected with a long-time friend who became a registered practicing nurse (RPN) in Ontario. She reached out wanting to know more information about cannabis as a recreational/medicinal substance as well as the industry. I didn’t know what she meant by wanting more information until I sat with her. I realized she was coming to me for professional advice on how to speak to people/consumers/patients in her line of work with cannabis. It was a genuinely honouring and humbling experience for me. I can share with her what I have learned about the space and how to navigate the language of cannabis consumption. This is how it went. 

She said.

She had an experience with a patient who was pregnant and also consuming cannabis as a method to deal with her anxiety due to an abusive relationship with the father of her unborn child. However, when faced with this information, my friend opened up to me and said that she felt as though she did not fulfill her duties as a medical practitioner. She didn’t know what information she needed to provide medical advice to the patient. Nor did she know how to approach the topic. It was an uncomfortable place for her to be, as she felt she couldn’t help the patient to the best of her abilities. She mentioned no formal teachings from school besides a tiny case study that she claimed didn’t sufficiently provide the information needed to handle a situation such as this one. 

Even though medical cannabis has been legal for almost 20 years, it wasn’t surprising that educational institutions were still lacking in this topic. In addition, she never consumed cannabis, so her level of experience with the plant was a literal zero.

As a consumer and a professional working in the space, I gave her advice to the best of my abilities. My goal was to let her know that no one has all the answers. However, this conversation was super valuable, as it gave me hope for the future of new and young medical practitioners joining the workforce. Here are my recommendations for her.

Time for the rise of the Cannabis nurse

1. Know about the “what, where, how” of cannabis

This means where the patient could have purchased cannabis; from a legal retailer or a private seller. What is the strain they consume, and how do they consume it? What area of the city (Greater Toronto Area [GTA]) are they from? She was particularly surprised when I told her that each municipality within the GTA has voted/responded to cannabis legalization differently. This is basic and important data to understand the patients’ relationship with their cannabis consumption. This can be super informative when it comes to directing the conversation on how to advise the patient and can also give the medical practitioner the upper hand in analyzing whether the patient is withholding information or not. 

Familiarize yourself with the Endocannabinoid system and its relationship with cannabis. I advised her that everyone’s endocannabinoid system is different and that the studies on it are still very new. Developing a basic understanding of what it is and how it works is valuable to understanding the relationship between cannabis and its scientific properties.

2. Using Proper Language/Keywords

Small things like addressing the substance as cannabis and not marijuana. Make sure to avoid negative trigger words/slang like “addicted,” “dependence,” “overdose/OD,” “illegal,” “dealer,” and “high”. These are all words associated with a ton of stigma that can shame and intimidate a patient. Ensuring and enforcing an honest and understanding form of language can elevate the medical industry and build trust for the patient. 

3. Ask the right questions the right way

One thing that must be practiced in the medical field is an open mind and empathy, hence asking the right questions will bridge that gap of misunderstanding, misinformation, and miscommunication. The most important question to ask anyone, patient or not, when it comes to medical cannabis would be, “how does it help you?”, “Are you aware of the effects of cannabis?”. Instead of questions like “What do you need it [cannabis] for?’ “Are you high right now?”. Again, questions are associated with a ton of stigma. It’s essential for medical practitioners to understand and accept that cannabis consumption is so much more than just “getting high.” 

4. Public Record Resources

Do your own research and look into all of the information that’s already available to the public. With online resources of strain information and consumer reviews, it’s super helpful to get a general and basic understanding of what cannabis information looks and sounds like. Some resources I suggested to her include Websites:

  1. Leafly

  2. Weedmaps

  3. Lift & Co.

  4. Niche


  1. Strainprint

  2. Herb

5. Start A Resource Group

Take on the bare minimum of leadership and encourage other medical practitioners to join in on the conversation. Whether it be a focus group, think tank, round table discussion or afternoon tea. It’ll be the first step to progress, change, and development while destroying the stigma. I told her that medical practitioners like herself have much power and influence. She’s the one that can create change and advocacy and normalize cannabis both medically and recreationally in the future. It’s part of her job, as well as others joining the medical workforce, to create change and progress for the health and wellness of Canada. 

We agreed that the current situation in the Canadian medical field is incredibly “medieval” and needs a severe upgrade in its institution, technology, communications, and pretty much everything else. However, I reiterated to her how meaningful this conversation is for medical practitioners in the future. She wields an incredible amount of power as a leader and influencer of the plant for business and medicine. She and her coworkers will be the next generation of medical practitioners, and they should only focus on being better and trying harder.

My takeaway from this conversation was incredibly fulfilling and inspiring as it gives me hope that Canadian society is beginning to come around. This will also mark the beginning of taking the first step into progress. It’s time for a new job description – The Rise of the Cannabis Nurse. 

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