‘Cannabis nurse’ gives up his license

November 22, 2006

Bennett Hall, Corvallis Gazette-Times (OR)

A local nurse and medicinal marijuana advocate fired by Samaritan Health Services for refusing to take a drug test has surrendered his nursing license rather than stop using pot. Under an agreement with the Oregon State Board of Nursing that took effect Nov. 8, it will be three years before Ed Glick can apply to have his license reinstated. Illegal drug use violates the state law that governs nursing and is grounds for disciplinary action. In interviews with nursing board staff, Glick acknowledged that he “self-medicated with cannabis” and agreed to relinquish his license after more than 20 years as a nurse. “I admitted to using an illegal drug, and that violates the standards of practice for Oregon nurses,” Glick said this week. Barbara Holtry, a spokeswoman for the Oregon State Board of Nursing, said the law is clear on marijuana use. “All nurses have to abide by the Nurse Practice Act,” Holtry said. Glick might have been able to keep his license by entering the nurse monitoring program, a five-year probationary arrangement that requires chemical dependancy treatment and regular urinalysis, but he refused. He argues that marijuana is a beneficial substance that has been “demonized” by the government. “I’m not going to go into drug treatment because I admitted to using pot,” he said. Holtry said she couldn’t comment on the particular circumstances of Glick’s case but added that the monitoring program is only for nurses actively trying to overcome a chemical dependency. “If someone is not willing to comply with all those terms and conditions,” she said. “then obviously that is not an option for them.” Glick was terminated in April by Samaritan Health Services for refusing to submit to a drug test after a supervisor raised questions about gaps in patient paperwork. He fought his firing through a union grievance process but was unable to win his job back. Glick, 49, had worked at Samaritan for the past 15 years, most recently in the health care network’s regional mental health center in Corvallis. He had also become an outspoken advocate for medicinal marijuana, leading demonstrations, speaking at conferences and handing out business cards identifying him as a “cannabis nurse.” Although Oregon is one of about a dozen states that allows the drug to be used for medical purposes, the practice remains controversial, and Glick claimed his advocacy work was the real reason for his dismissal. A Samaritan official denied that charge, insisting Glick was terminated “for good cause.” Steve Jasperson, chief executive officer of Good Samaritan Regional Medical Center, told the Gazette-Times last spring that the hospital’s policies clearly state it can require a drug test if there is “reasonable suspicion” that an employee might be impaired. Glick continues to deny that he reported to work under the influence of marijuana or any other drug. “I’ve never been impaired or intoxicated for a moment at any nursing job,” he said. “All I am is an uppity nurse.” But he also admits that he occasionally uses marijuana to treat his own medical conditions, which include insomnia and pain from spinal problems, even though those problems are not severe enough to qualify for the Oregon medical marijuana program. In Glick’s view, it makes more sense to use a plant he believes to be safe and effective than to dose himself with synthetic sleep aids and pain-killers. “I do take ibuprofen now and then, but I don’t like pharmaceuticals,” he said. In the end, he said, it was his refusal to lie about his pot use that cost him his nursing license. “I probably could have lied my way through it, either by lying my way into the medical marijuana program or by lying about my use of the drug,” Glick said. “I didn’t really give (the nursing board) much of a choice in the matter.” Glick hasn’t decided yet whether he’ll apply for reinstatement of his nursing license when the three-year waiting period is up. After months of battling his former employer and the state over rules he disagrees with, he’s ready for a change. For now he’s going back to school, signing up for a general agricultural program at Oregon State University. “I don’t want to spend my life where I’m not wanted. ... It’s pretty likely that I’m done with nursing,” Glick said. “I’m going to work with plants for awhile.” Bennett Hall is the business editor for the Gazette-Times. He can be reached at 758-9529 or bennett.hall@lee.net.

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