Nurses are now getting involved in the hotly debated matter of whether to legally allow access to medical marijuana (MMJ) for all patients. Sue Rosen a RN CLNC, Associate Editor and Legal Liaison for the American Cannabis Nurses Association is leading the charge to make medical marijuana available to more patients and today she’s taking time out to answer some questions.
How did you get involved with the American Cannabis Nurses Association?
Sue: As a nurse, I advocate for the patient. The United States patented cannabis for its neuro-protective benefits and according to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, 2014, 1.5% of the children in the U.S. were diagnosed with autism. Children with autism and Dravet syndrome, a rare genetic epileptic dysfunction of the brain, are finding relief from these tragic anomalies by using CBD (cannabidiol) derived from marijuana and hemp plants. How could I, as a professional registered nurse, ignore the evidence? I made a decision to be an activist for the safest care because I have witnessed it without any doubt.
Celeste: What do you say to those who oppose medical marijuana and choose to ignore the evolving research?
Sue: In 1972, Richard Nixon wanted a larger budget for his war on drugs. He thought if he proved cannabis caused lung cancer (like cigarettes), he would prevail. He gave the Medical College of Virginia two years to study the effects of THC on the body. Results? THC ingested in highly concentrated forms (i.e. cannabis oil) attacks mutated cells in the body while strengthening and rejuvenating the healthy cells. When Richard Nixon saw the results, he threw the entire report in the trash and deemed the study classified. We only found out about it a few years ago thanks to dedicated medical and law professionals who filed Freedom of Information requests.
In 1976, President Gerald Ford ended all public cannabis research and granted exclusive research rights to pharmaceutical companies. These companies spend billions of dollars annually lobbying against cannabis.
Celeste: We are learning that marijuana may be helpful in chronic pain and possibly neuropathic pain. As a nurse, do you feel medical marijuana is a better choice?
Sue: If we have the capacity to provide care and relief to our patients with the least amount of side effects, then why aren’t we? Cannabis should have never been a scheduled 1 illegal drug. It is an herb. It is a plant.
Researchers studying Cannabis prompted the creation of the International Cannabinoid Research Society ( ICRS) in 1992, which has brought together universally connected scientists such as Dr. Sue Sisley, Dr. Raphael Mechoulam, Dr. Sanjay Gupta and other recognized scholars.
Celeste: Do you see marijuana users suffering the same stigma as those who use opioids for pain?
Sue: Nobody should suffer needlessly. We have human rights, patient rights, a bill of rights and we have constitutional rights.
The right to privacy often means the right to personal autonomy or the right to choose whether to engage in certain acts or have certain experiences. Several amendments to the U.S. Constitution have been used with varying degrees of success in determining a right to personal autonomy. See Live Science.
Our personal preferences for how we manage our pain should never be dictated by the pharmaceutical industry. We should never disregard medical or professional advice, but we choose.
Celeste: Where do you believe the future of medical marijuana is headed in states that are reluctant to legalize it?
Sue: States that are reluctant in accepting medical marijuana as a valid point of care need education. We have a responsibility to educate our state officials. With understanding, I believe a gentle acceptance will occur.
Alice O’Leary-Randall says in The U.S. Must Create a New Schedule for Cannabis: An Open Letter the U.S. Congress, “The Constitution delegates no power to the federal government to prohibit marijuana in the states. This power remains with the state governments and the people… As one who brings to this issue 40 years of perspective, I can say with certainty that we have never been at a more opportune time to effect dramatic and positive change.”
Celeste: Is there anything else you would like to share with our readers?
Sue: Yes, our mission is to advance excellence in cannabis nursing practices through advocacy, collaboration, education, research and policy development. We are directly involved with patients and see the benefits. Since 1994, the state nursing associations of Alaska, New York, North Carolina, California, Colorado, Hawaii, New Mexico, Mississippi, Virginia and Wisconsin have all passed resolutions that support allowing patients to buy medical marijuana. Besides this, the American Nurses Association, the American Academy of Family Physicians, and the American Public Health Association have also acknowledged that marijuana is a valuable form of treatment. You can read more about our mission, state meet-ups and news, governance, education and more at ACNA.
Celeste: HealthCentral readers, I hope you will join me in saying thank you to Sue and those she works with to raise awareness and to offer a message of hope. She is passionate about her plight as a patient advocate.
Sue Rosen, Rosen RN CLNC, is Associate Editor and Legal Liaison at THE NATIONAL CANNABIS PATIENTS WALL, NY, and the American Cannabis Nurses Association. She contributes articles at the PULSE on Linked-In.