Nursing & Healthcare News

Nurses and Medical Marijuana

A new book may be useful in understanding California's cannabis laws

A nurse wearing bright green scrubs with a stethoscope around his neck. He stands in front of an operating room.

Although a recently enacted California law now allows some patients to use medical marijuana in hospitals, many nurses are still unfamiliar with its use. A new book may help to bridge the gap.

Medical Marijuana Use in the Hospital?

Back in 1996, California became the first U.S. state to legalize medical marijuana with the passage of Prop. 215.

Last September, shortly before that measure’s 25th anniversary, Gov. Gavin Newsom approved S.B.311, the Compassionate Access to Medical Cannabis Act, which requires certain healthcare facilities to allow terminally ill patients to use medical marijuana within the facility.

The scope of the new law is relatively limited: It only applies to terminally ill patients, the facility isn’t obligated to provide or dispense medicinal marijuana, and patients still aren’t permitted to smoke or vape on the premises.

Facilities must also impose reasonable restrictions on how medicinal cannabis is stored and used so as to protect other patients, staff and guests.

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However, the enactment of S.B.311 may signal a new era, particularly since the Biden Administration has indicated that it does not intend to oppose states’ medical marijuana laws. (Gov. Newsom had vetoed a similar bill in 2019 out of concern that it might threaten California hospitals’ federal funding.)

Nursing Education Shortfall

According to Anne Dabrow Woods, RN, DNP, CRNP, ANP-BC, AGACNP-BC, FAAN, chief nurse of health learning, research and practice for Wolters Kluwer, the widespread legalization of medical marijuana “has created a growing need for nurses to be educated on the medicinal use of cannabis,” something most current nurses’ training didn’t cover.

To help fill that gap, Wolters Kluwer imprint Lippincott Williams & Wilkins (LWW) recently released a new book, Cannabis: A Handbook for Nurses.

The book addresses the principles and recommendations of the National Nursing Guidelines for Medical Marijuana issued in 2018 by the National Council of State Boards of Nursing (NCSBN).

Nursing Education

Cannabis provides foundational information on the history of marijuana laws, the pharmacology of cannabis, current clinical evidence on the medical use of cannabinoid products, and more.

There are also NCLEX-style quizzes for readers to test their knowledge.

A Knowledge Base

“The reality is that many, many patients use cannabis for palliation and healing,” says Cannabis author Carey S. Clark, RN, Ph.D., AHN-BC, RYT.“ [T]herefore, whether we call ourselves cannabis care nurses or not, all nurses must have a knowledge base of how to care for patients using cannabinoid medicines for healing.”


Cannabis: A Handbook for Nurses is now available from the LWW store, You can also download the 2018 NCSBN guidelines at

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