Guest Blogger: Becoming a Cannabis Nurse

Meredith Patterson is a nurse specializing in neurology. She writes about the brain and brain health at her blog –

From where I’m sitting, using the marijuana plant as potential healing agent is a subject that both baffles and entices.  It wants to be understood.  If only I could get my head around it.

I should get the hang of the science without much fuss, right?  I’m a registered nurse with three decades of  experience primarily spent  in neurology settings – that translates to being around brain- injured, demented, confused and semi-comatose patients who can barely communicate much less eat, poop or brush their teeth without assistance. This type of work oddly suited me – I was a dorky, shy kid who preferred piano lessons and curling up with a book to tennis practice or sleepover camp. Heck, I read brain science books for fun.

Over the years, I developed a kind of Spidey-sense for brains from the outside-in as my patients became my personal tutors.   I bathed them, dressed them, read to them, fed them by hand.  The intimacy of such work creates a sense of knowing.  The brain became a map that I could navigate and translate for patients and families and anyone else who was curious.   I began to think of myself as a tour guide and explorer, akin to Magellan, circumnavigating the lobes instead of the globe. And I noticed that lots of other people—lay people, like, say, state legislators—seemed to have already taken this cruise.

But understanding marijuana (or cannabis as it’s properly called by botanists) and the once- preposterous notion that it could be of some medical benefit – is for most folks new and uncharted territory.  My knowledge of the subject was limited to a few years of involvement with an enthusiastic pot-smoking boyfriend during my college days in 1970’s Austin.  Stoners, as far as I could tell, were only interested in two things – getting high and finding the next, more exotic bag of weed.  There was much discussion of “buds”, “grow lights” and some exotic weed variety called Sensimilla.  As for me, smoking anything just made me cough and sputter.

So, decades went by before I circled back again.  But this time, I wanted to know how this plant with its buds and stems and checkered history could help people in ways where prescription drugs and “conventional treatments” fail.    I’d heard plenty of noise about how medical cannabis could offer alternatives to people who suffer with conditions that refuse to go away – like chronic pain, insomnia, and depression.  I want to know more.

Really understanding what cannabis is and how it works is tricky, like finding one’s way through a maze.  Part botany, part pharmacy – the science behind marijuana has a language all its own.  I just have to learn to speak it.

Follow my blog and watch me learn! We can sail around the Cape of Good Hope together.


Meredith Patterson, RN, BSN, CRRN


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