Health, Responsibility, and safety

There are many things to consider with regard to cannabis and health. Let us begin our exploration of the topic in an open-ended fashion by exploring the concept of health and safety, along with our responsibility as nurses relevant to these topics. Check out the various Resources for Module 1, consult any other sources as you see fit, and consider the following ideas as a way or stimulating your thoughts on the topic.


 Reflect on the various concerns about risks to health posed by medicinal and/or recreational cannabis as well as those concerns about potential clinical complications (drug/procedural interactions, breastfeeding, etc). These have to serve as a counterpoint to the potential for improved health that leveraging cannabis for the promotion of health or as a medicine. Give some thought also to how to address stigma and promote a open-minded consideration of cannabis in healthcare and the role that might play in disparate treatment of patients and healthcare professionals. There are a host of concerns about the general confusion engendered by a state-supported, federally prohibited plant (e.g., healthcare professionals’ responsibilities with regard to patients) and manifold difficulties in regulation (e.g., access, dosage, potency, etc).


 Let us also consider public safetySurely, we must embrace in our role as patient/public advocates the responsibility to consider the safety of cannabis relative to its potential to improve and/or promote health. I would argue that consideration of safety also necessitates some thought on the related concept of harm. Much has been made of this topic. From Jimmy Carter’s notable admonition that drug laws do more harm than drugs, to the various LEAP (Law Enforcement Against Prohibition) arguments that prohibition increases risk to public health, to the high profile efforts of SAFER (now absorbed/evolved into Marijuana Policy Project) that focus on the safety of cannabis relative to alcohol (especially) and to other legal drugs. On the other side, we have arguments about cannabis as a gateway drug, relaxation of inhibitions, implications of legal cannabis by irresponsible users (e.g., use while driving or working or etc), children’s access to cannabis, and etc.  


Having given some thought to the above, please address the following questions 

·        As healthcare professionals and educated private citizens, what responsibilities do we have to our patients, our communities, the public, and society as a whole with regard to cannabis?

·        Given the increasing potential for ubiquitous cannabis throughout American society, how should we define health?

·        Bearing in mind the various precedents that have been set with other legal or prescription drugs as well as other naturally occurring psychoactive plants (e.g., chamomile, nutmeg, poppy, alcohol, caffeine), how should we define safety and harm?

·        By what criteria might we judge a herb, plant, or substance to determine whether it should be considered ‘safe’?

·        How ‘harmful’ is cannabis relative to other things that are considered by our society to be harmful, in what ways is it harmful, and how do we address those other harmful influences?

·        By (y)our definition, how safe and/or harmful is cannabis? What level of regulation and/or prohibition seems most appropriate given our definition of safety and cannabis and the risk of harm attendant on its use?


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