Cannabis Information for Healthcare Professionals
Patients expect evidence-based practice from their healthcare professionals, which includes providing drug/medication information that is accurate and science based. Our biennial conference series was designed to meet the educational needs of healthcare professionals by ensuring they were accredited for continuing education credits. Although we don't include sections specific to professionals such as pharmacists or social workers, much of this information will be useful in these fields as well as medicine and nursing.
Since the clinical cannabis educational series began in 2000, they have been accredited to provide CMEs or CEUs to healthcare providers. The 2008 conference proceedings are now available online for physicians to earn CMEs and nurses and other healthcare professionals to earn contact hours for their continuing education requirements. The University of California, San Francisco School of Medicine has an online CME program and UCSF is offering our 2008 conference proceedings as one of their programs. This program (the 2006 conference proceedings will soon be online as well) also provides contact hours for nurses and other healthcare professionals. While our conferences offer the attendees the opportunity to network with the faculty and other experts who attend the event, the online series is a very inexpensive way to learn about cannabis on your own time for the cost of only $75 for the program (10 CMEs or 10 contact hours). DVD sets of the conference series are also available for purchase and would provide a great educational resource for clinics, institutions or libraries.
Physicians are in a legal/ethical quandary: Science shows that cannabis is a safe and effective medication yet the federal government has placed it in Schedule I of the Controlled Substances making it illegal for them to prescribe. In the historic rescheduling petition of NORML and ACT vs the DEA, the DEA's Administrative Law Judge, Francis Young, concluded in 1988 that cannabis must be removed from Schedule I. After reading all of the evidence, pro and con, he noted that cannabis was "one of the safest therapeutic substances known to man." If this herbal medicine is so safe, surely physicians should be able to prescribe it to their patients.
Patients Out of Time strongly believes that physicians must educate themselves on the science of medicinal cannabis and the endocannabinoid system. Once educated, physicians must be proactive and work towards ending the cannabis prohibition. It is not OK to simply shy away from or ignore this issue. Cannabis has the potential to improve the quality of life for countless patients. They need and expect your support.
Time and again nurses rank #1 as the most trusted profession in Gallup's annual survey of professions for their honesty and ethical standards. Nurses are the "bedside" healthcare providers who strive to promote health, prevent illness and alleviate suffering. The fundamental principles of nursing are compassion and respect for the individual patient. A key role of the nurse is to act as a patient advocate. Nurses are there for patients when it comes to the issue of medicinal cannabis. The Virginia Nurses Association was the first state nurses association to pass a formal resolution calling for patient access to therapeutic cannabis back in 1994. More states followed and in 2003 the American Nurses Association overwhelmingly passed a strong resolution supporting patient access to cannabis as well as the education of registered nurses on evidence-based research on the efficacy of cannabis as medicine.
With the discovery of the endocannabinoid system, it is becoming more apparent as to why cannabis has so much therapeutic potential and yet has a remarkably wide margin of safety. The endocannabinoid system affects how humans eat, sleep, relax, protect and forget. This system is essential to life and cannabis is the only natural plant that has endocannabinoid-like chemicals called phyto-cannabinoids or simply cannabinoids. While cannabis remains in Schedule I under federal law, more and more states are acknowledging its medicinal value. For those nurses who work in states with medical marijuana/cannabis laws, it is essential that you understand the risks and benefits of cannabis and cannabinoids. For those nurses who work in states where it is illegal it is time for you to become educated on its efficacy and work towards changing the law in your state. For all nurses it is an ethical responsibility to patients to help them gain the option to use cannabis as medicine and thus work towards educating your legislators and policy makers about this safe and effective medicine.
Patients Out of Time strongly believes that the greatest risk to patients who use cannabis is its prohibition. With the prohibition there is no quality control of cannabis and patients do not receive education about the risks and benefits or the appropriate dose and route of administration. Physicians are intimidated by the law and fear the consequences of a patient using a potentially contaminated unregulated product. Nurses are expected to educate their patients about the safe use of their medications and here too, some nurses may be concerned with the lack of quality control for this prohibited medicine. Healthcare professionals are encouraged to explore and consider the ethical issues involved in this unjust medicinal cannabis prohibition.
As long as cannabis remains in Schedule I, most patients will need to find a safe and reliable cannabis supplier. In the states that have passed medical marijuana/cannabis laws compassion clubs have opened up to provide this medicine to patients. Cannabis growers/providers need to ensure that the cannabis is grown and harvested under safe and responsible conditions.
This is an ever-growing list of organizations that have taken action to formally support patient access to therapeutic cannabis. Healthcare professionals are strongly encouraged to take action within their specialty organizations by urging and assisting them in formally supporting patient access to cannabis through a resolution or position paper. Please contact Patients Out of Time for assistance if needed and notify us of any organization that passes a supportive paper. As the list continues to grow, politicians and policy makers will have the necessary support to change the laws and end the cannabis prohibition.