Why More Nurses and Student Nurses Need to Join the American Cannabis Nurses Association (ACNA)

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The American Cannabis Nurses Association (ACNA) was founded in 2010 by Mary Lynn Mathre (RN, MSN, CARN), and Ed Glick (BS, AD, Nursing) along with a small group of other nurses and supporters who have cared for patients who use cannabis to treat their illnesses.

Nurses who advocate for medical cannabis, or are patients themselves, sometimes find themselves subjected to inappropriate investigations and disciplinary actions. ACNA is a voice of unity, where nurses can assist each other with defending our right to discuss this treatment with our patients, or utilize medical cannabis programs ourselves without fear of retribution.


The Staff of the Farmacy in West Hollywood from December 2006, about a month before we got raided by the DEA.

The first time I saw Mary Lynn Mathre, President of the ACNA, she was speaking at the 2008 Patient’s Out of Time conference in Pacific Grove, CA.

I found myself at this conference just a little over a year after I’d witnessed the raid on the dispensary in Los Angeles I had been working at. Seeing DEA put semi-automatic weapons to cancer patient’s heads and watching my co-workers get handcuffed had me wondering if I really wanted to continue working in the cannabis industry, flirting with the Feds like that, and wondering if it would ruin my chances of getting a mainstream job in the future.

I’d originally taken the position as a second part-time job so I could save up for nursing school. However, I had been so inspired by the patients who I watched recover or have their lives improved by this miraculous plant, I had put the nursing school idea on hold for a bit so I could work there full-time. Seeing what cannabis did for these patients really changed the way I looked at medicine, and it was frustrating there was so much stigma around it.

But, after the raid, I took a few months off to do some “soul searching.” Was it really worth the risk? I thought I could go back to being a medical secretary, but I missed the patients at the dispensary so much, I missed watching them heal, and I missed my coworkers.

Quite honestly, I felt like a coward for “running away” while everyone else stayed and cleaned the place up in order to rebuild it again.

I realized, this wasn’t about just “getting a mainstream job” someday. The fight to make sure patients could receive cannabis without worrying about the DEA putting a gun to their heads was more important than that.

The dispensary had re-opened only a few days after the raid, but it took me a few months to finally get my courage to back. Once I did go back to the dispensary, I attended as many medical and political events as I could.

One of those events was the 2008 Patient’s Out of Time conference in Pacific Grove.

It wasn’t just Mary Lynn Mathre who inspired me at that conference, but all the other doctors,nurses, health care workers, patients, loved ones of patients, and activists who were speaking up and fighting really hard to end the stigma (while facing all kinds of legal threats) who inspired me as well. I thought to myself, “I have to be like them. There aren’t enough of them.”

So, in 2009, I left California, and moved back to the East Coast (where I’m originally from), and immediately started enrolling in pre-requisites for nursing school. I saw Mary Lynn again, this time at the 2010 Patients Out of Time conference in Rhode Island, where she and others who had cared for cannabis patients founded the American Cannabis Nurses Association.

I officially joined the ACNA as a student member after I was accepted into nursing school.

In four semesters of nursing school, there were no formal discussions on cannabis in the classroom and a lot of the old misconceptions about cannabis are still being taught. There have been, however, informal discussions in the clinical setting, and attitudes towards cannabis are definitely changing for the better.

One of the goals of the ACNA is to set up advanced certification and credentialing for nurses in endocannabinoid therapeutics. Partnering with Patients Out of Time, the ACNA will represent the only nursing educational and advocacy organization representing endocannabinoid therapeutics in the United States.

“Partnering with Patients Out of Time, the ACNA will represent the only nursing educational and advocacy organization representing endocannabinoid therapeutics in the United States.”

We need more nurses and nursing students to join the ACNA. Cannabis patients have the right to be treated and cared for by nurses who have been educated in the science behind cannabis.

Nurses need to be able to provide this care without the fear of losing their licenses, and patients have a right to access this medicine, safely, with the guidance of their nurse.

The ACNA is also working to set up a members-only discussion group online for nurses to confidentially and securely communicate and network.

Most importantly, ACNA nurses are creating a new nursing subspecialty called “cannabis nursing”, which integrates marginalized patients into nursing practice, and joins nurses together.

If you’re interested in joining or learning more about the American Cannabis Nurses Association, go to www.cannabisnurse.org