The Australian Medicinal Cannabis Symposium opens on the Sunshine Coast next Friday (May 20) with a one-day nurses’ conference, the culmination of years of work by nursing bodies nationwide.

Sponsored by the Australian Nursing and Midwifery Federation (ANMF), delegates will hear from international and local experts about the latest research, legislation, and developments.

Speakers include associate professor at the University of Manitoba’s College of Nursing Lynda Balneaves, Ecofibre chief science officer Alex Capano, Lisa Todd from Epilepsy Action Australia and Sarah Flogen from the Canadian Nurses Association.

Ecofibre chief science officer Alex Capano will be speaking at the nurses’ conference

Government and community relations organiser at the NSW Nurses and Midwives’ Association (NSWNMA) Rita Martin told Cannabiz the conference is the culmination of years of co-operation between the body and Symposium organiser United in Compassion (UIC). 

She said: “The NSWNMA has been involved in the Australian medicinal cannabis movement since [UIC founder] Lucy Haslam first launched her petition [for legalisation] in 2014.

“We have developed resources to meet the educational and professional interests of nurses and midwives for a long time. [NSWNMA general secretary] Brett Holmes was at the first symposium in Tamworth in 2014, and an officer from NSWNMA has attended or participated in each one since then.”

The association ran four regional forums on medicinal cannabis for nurses and midwives in 2018 with more than 400 people in attendance.

In 2019, it called for a national nursing conference and the development of an international network of nursing organisations focused on the topic. It also proposed a resolution at the ANMF conference to hold a national event, and to work with other like-minded organisations towards safe, affordable and accessible medicinal cannabis for those who could benefit from it. 

That proposal was accepted, and resulted in the ANMF sponsoring the nurses conference at Symposium — then twice postponed due to Covid. 

Finally though, that national nurses’ conference is about to become a reality, and Martin can’t wait.

“Having our professional voices heard is important in developing legislation and regulations to ensure patients are able to access safe, affordable products.”

rita martin, NSW Nurses and Midwives’ Association

“There is a huge amount of interest in medicinal cannabis education and information for nurses and midwives, delivered by nurses and midwives,” she said.

“We don’t need to re-invent the wheel, we have so much to learn from nursing organisations overseas, particularly the Canadian experience. 

“There will [also] be huge interest in hearing from nurse practitioners here in Australia who are able to give their unique perspective of the current situation, and what more needs to be achieved.

“Having our professional voices heard is important in developing legislation and regulations to ensure patients are able to access safe, affordable products.

“I am proud that the NSWNMA have played a leading role in bringing this vision to reality and look forward to getting this issue back on the professional and political agenda.”

ANMF federal education officer Jodie Davis​​ added: “As nurses, we have a duty of care to know and understand all forms of treatment available to patients in Australia, medicinal cannabis being one of them, and advocate on their behalf.”

“We have more than 300,000 nurses and midwives as members. Obviously we would like to reach them all. However, for every nurse we do reach [with information about medicinal cannabis], we hope they will reach another and so on.”

Olivia Newton John and John Easterling: living the medicinal cannabis experience every day

Davis said she was particularly excited to hear from Olivia Newton John and her husband John Easterling.

“They are living this every day. Without medicinal cannabis, [Olivia] wouldn’t be with us today. She is a living testament to how it can improve and lengthen life.

“John understands the gifts of nature and embraces them wholeheartedly, he is a legend in his own right and such an excellent speaker.”

She added: “I am very keen to hear about patient experiences and barriers to them being able to receive the care they deserve.

“These stories will have a huge impact on nurses as they bring home the challenges patients have faced and continue to face, the real-life struggles of the people we ultimately care for.”

The Symposium takes place on the Sunshine Coast next week (May 20-22), with a stellar line up of local and international speakers and discounted tickets for Cannabiz members. To take advantage of a 10% discount all on aspects of the Symposium, click here.

Prior to launching Cannabiz, Martin was co-founder and CEO of Asia-Pac’s leading B2B media and marketing information brand Mumbrella, overseeing its sale to Diversified Communications in 2017. A journalist...