Meet the Cannabis Science Conference Fall Speakers: Nurse Laura Barrett-Nutting on The Power of Knowledgeable Health Care Providers in the Cannabis Industry

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Columns | <b>Cannabis Voices</b>

Let’s meet CSC Fall speaker Nurse Laura Barrett-Nutting, Executive Director of the National Clinical Directors Consortium and Owner of Ask Nurse Laura.

The Fall Cannabis Science Conference (CSC) will take place in Providence, Rhode Island September 20-22nd. CSC Fall features several exciting tracks: analytical science, cultivation, medical cannabis, and psychedelics. With expert speakers coming in from around the country, we thought it was a great opportunity to introduce some of them and get a sneak peek into their presentations. Let’s meet Nurse Laura Barrett-Nutting, Executive Director of the National Clinical Directors Consortium and Owner of Ask Nurse Laura. Nurse Laura is balanced in her approach to cannabis and hemp as an integrated part of wellness. She studies the available research on cannabis as medicine and works with her patients to weigh the benefits versus the risks for each of them. Nurse Laura is participating as a speaker on an exciting panel discussion in the medical track at the Cannabis Science Conference Fall titled “Clinical Directors, Navigating Legalization and Beyond” on Thursday, September 21st. Here, Barrett-Nutting shares her background as a nurse and how she got involved with medical cannabis as well as a preview of what to expect from her exciting panel discussion!

Can you tell us about your background and how you got involved with medical cannabis?

Laura Barrett-Nutting: Yes. It's kind of a long and sordid story, so I'll try to keep it somewhat brief. I was working as a nurse implementing Epic, the electronic health record, at Johns Hopkins Health System. I was also volunteering in Maryland with lots of health and wellness type nonprofits. One of my co-volunteers got a license to grow cannabis (like the stage one license) and asked me if I wanted to be a part of the team because they needed a medical person to be a part of it. And, honestly, my first reaction was that it was not for me.It took quite a bit of prodding and research and reaching out to my peers for me to change my mind. I really do owe my wonderful place in the cannabis industry today to some of my friends at Hopkins who work in research and development at Hopkins on cannabis, because I kind of went behind the scenes and did some shadowing and spending time talking to those peers. But it was that experience that really helped me to take the leap and then the encouragement of the team at Hopkins that I was working for, that said Hopkins would always be there and to go check it out.

I implemented this first grow facility, opened a couple of dispensaries with that company, and really got a firsthand look at the inside of what our Maryland program was going to become. I had the opportunity to work almost every job in the cultivation facility—I cleaned the floors, I watered plants, I learned about nutrients, I learned how to scrub, and I learned harvesting and drying and curing. Then we had to package products and figure out how to meet the legal requirements for packaging, and I had the opportunity to be a part of it all. A lot of my job was tied to compliance and the informatics, like the IT side of it, but I had to work right alongside of thegrowers and the people who kind of knew more about cannabis and about the growing of cannabis than I did.


We had a dispensary license too, and it was a similar experience. I had the opportunity to work alongside everyone and perform almost every role in the dispensary. As a lifelong learner, I was taking multiple courses and webinars, and researching the leaders in cannabis science—many of whom will be at the Cannabis Science Conference—to start following them, reading their books, and attending their coursework so that I could become an expert too.

Then in 2019, I opened my own business, RN4Wellness, now called Ask Nurse Laura. I am a nurse/coach for cannabis. I tell people that I am like a personal trainer for how to meet their goals with cannabis, and I mentor people on a continual basis until they are on a path to feel better and know how to manage tougher days. I work with medical patients and adult-use consumers in the same fashion. I have a second business, the National Clinical Director Consortium, which supports standards for healthcare providers in the cannabis field.

It's so rare to meet a healthcare professional who's also knowledgeable about growing, how does that help you in your business?

Barrett-Nutting: Yes, it helps me tremendously. In my opinion, we have many people across the country, and even the world, doing a great job growing the plant. Paying attention to processes to retain the most medicinal benefits in growing, harvesting, drying, and curing the plant is important. Like a fine wine, cannabis has more flavor when it is cured. The processing, however, can be costly and challenging depending on your time and equipment. I had the opportunity to participate in partnership with a processing license and gleaned useful information on diverse ways to process cannabis plant matter to create beneficial processed products for consumers. While working at this facility I had to learn and share the Maryland legal requirements for pesticides, better yet “no” pesticides, tracking and tagging plants, packaging, and selling to dispensaries. These experiences are priceless and valuable for my new business as they help me to better understand the pain points of the businesses I serve. This experience also helps me to provide better education, product reviews, and decipher new products to market with knowledge. I have had the opportunity to work as a healthcare professional and a business coach for some of the dispensaries because as a nurse you're always also like a coach, you always are serving and wanting to help other people succeed. I enjoy having that experience and being able to also help from that perspective.

What are you most looking forward to at the Cannabis Science Conference Fall?

Barrett-Nutting: It is kind of silly. The thing that I am most looking forward to is going to Rhode Island. I have never been to Rhode Island. It is so easy and wonderful when the conference is in Baltimore. I have not yet made it to a West Coast Cannabis Science Conference. We were supposed to go during COVID and then COVID happened.I am looking forward to going and being around maybe the various aspects, the different people, the different companies that might come out because it's somewhere else. The cannabis industry is so big and so small at the same time. I am grateful for my many peers who give their time and go to these events, and I also look forward to expanding my horizons to others. I am also looking forward to seeing how year two goes with MJH Life Sciences taking over. I have presented and attended the Cannabis Science Conference since it began.

Can you give us a little preview of what you'll be sharing on the panel discussion and maybe share a little bit of the history with the Clinical Director Consortium?

Barrett-Nutting: Yes. Our discussion is “Navigating Cannabis Legalization and Beyond as Healthcare Providers.” We feel it is important to share that even in an adult-use space, there is a need for healthcare providers. In Maryland, particularly, our role is that of Clinical Director. We are healthcare professionals, registered with the state, who have expertise in cannabis medicine. In Maryland, a Clinical Director can be a nurse, a pharmacist, or a physician who is not a certifying provider. In some states, they use pharmacists primarily. Some states have no requirement. In my experience, I found I sometimes relied on my pharmacy friends and peers to better understand specific drug interactions in this less common field. I also utilized my physician friends when I counseled various types of oncology or immunotherapy patients.

I found it interesting that we have cannabis nursing organizations (for nurses only): Cannabis Nurses Network, American Cannabis Nurses Association, American Holistic Nurses Association, and Maryland Nurses Association. We have primarily physician organizations for cannabis: The Society of Cannabis Clinicians, and then pharmacists-centered organizations. Along with one of my peers, we had the idea to create an umbrella group to allow us space to collaborate with one another on this Clinical Director – healthcare provider in the cannabis field- role. As a nurse, I can share that nurses are whole person-centered. When people utilize my service, they get so much more than a cannabis consult. They get an integrative medicine look at their whole person, an active listener, and someone to validate what they're going through. I am a second set of eyes reviewing their medical, social, and overall health picture. For example, someone complains that they're tired every morning and they wantcannabis to give them energy. As we talk about their sleep habits, exercise habits, and their medications, we learn helpful information. Possibly, with the doctor’s permission, something as simple as taking their sleeping pill two hours earlier could be the change that gives them the energy they want in the morning. This is a tiny example of how a nurse in this role might be extra beneficial.

At the same time, for specific chemotherapeutic medications, where research has shown reasons to select to abstain or modify the timing of doses related to CBD or THC, I have verified my assessment with a peer who specializes in this oncology. This is often confusing to the consumer or the medical patient, and having a trusted resource to obtain guidance and education can be useful during an already challenging time. As Clinical Directors, our goals are to provide education, guidance and reduce harm. We formed our organization with Maryland in mind and quickly expanded across the country. We do advocacy work, speaking engagements, and dispensary staff education, with our goal being to demonstrate the importance of access to education on the use of cannabis for all people.

Stay tuned for more with Laura Barrett-Nutting with our live video conference coverage taking place September 21-22, 2023 or join us in person to hear Nurse Laura and her colleagues’ panel discussion as well as many others at the Cannabis Science Conference Fall in Providence, RI. Register today with code EARLYBIRD to save 30%:!