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What implications will nurses need to be aware of if someone in their home uses medical marijuana?

Monday July 1, 2013
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Dear Nancy,

Our state has a medical marijuana law on the ballot this year. What implications will nurses need to be aware of if someone in their home uses medical marijuana? Is it different from any other prescription medications? Should we tell our supervisors?


Nany Brent replies:

Dear Andrew,

The legitimate use of marijuana for medical treatment is relatively new and its implications are yet to be determined, including its impact on nurses who live with someone who uses marijuana for medical treatment and on nurses who may administer marijuana in a healthcare setting, such as a long-term care or hospice facility.

There are articles being published dealing with these, and other issues, that are worth reviewing. One is by Anita Green and Kay De-Vries, "Cannabis Use in Palliative Care-An Examination Of The Evidence And Implications For Nurses", Journal of Clinical Nursing (2010), available at www.advancedholistichealth.org/PDF_Files/Palliative%20care.pdf.
Another is the ANA's Position Statement, "In Support Of Patients," Safe Access To Therapeutic Marijuana" (2008), available at www.nursingworld.org — click on the Policy and Advocacy tab, then on Official ANA Position Statements and scroll down the list to the statement.

It will be important to keep abreast of how the law is treated in your state. It may be that there are no implications in the law concerning how healthcare providers, including nurses, are to deal with this issue with their employers when there is legitimate marijuana use at home. As a concerned citizen and practicing nurse, you and your colleagues may want to contact your legislators to amend the law to include such implications or ask that rules be promulgated to help guide nurses in this situation.


Nancy J. Brent, RN, MS, JD, is an attorney in private practice in Wilmette, Ill. This information is for educational purposes only and is not intended as legal or any other advice. The reader is encouraged to seek the advice of an attorney or other professional when an opinion is needed.