How Midwest CannaNurses is shaping the future of wellness with weed

Biyyiah A. Lee and Ebony Smith are the founders of Midwest CannaNurses. (Image via Midwest CannaNurses on Facebook)

By Jessica Strachan

February 28, 2024

We’re highlighting the innovative women at Midwest CannaNurses, who are driving change in the perception of cannabis in communities of color through their groundbreaking work.

MICHIGAN—Seeded from their mission of empowering communities to explore the therapeutic potential of cannabis, the folks at Midwest CannaNurses work to help outgrow the stigma of using cannabis. This minority-owned Detroit-based consulting service is led by incredible women making waves in the holistic arena.

Let’s get to know them.

Heroes of health and happiness

Midwest CannaNurses was founded by CEO and president Biyyiah A. Lee and Ebony Smith, BSN, RN, vice president of community outreach and engagement.

Lee hails from the Windy City of Chicago. The University of Michigan graduate is a registered nurse with over 10 years of experience in various healthcare settings, from ambulatory care to private-duty nursing to home health.

But what really sets Lee apart is her deep understanding of patient’s needs, especially those in the elderly and spinal cord injury communities who’ve discovered the benefits of cannabis.

Smith is a proud born and raised Detroiter with a deep love for her city. She has over a decade of nursing experience in areas including community nursing, nephrology, and maternal/child health. 

She earned her Bachelor of Science in Nursing from the legendary Grambling State University, an HBCU that fueled her desire to support communities of color and fight for social equity. Ebony’s passion for education shines through as she’s dedicated to spreading knowledge to diverse audiences and shattering stereotypes.

A shared experience of stigma

Lee and Smith first took it upon themselves to challenge the societal stigma surrounding cannabis consumption in 2020. With their medical backgrounds and knowledge, they developed presentations specifically tailored to communities of color, addressing topics like connecting self-care and cannabis, the use of cannabis during the COVID-19 pandemic, and promoting well-informed consumption practices.

“Racism restricts access to cannabis via racial stereotypes,” MCN shares in their blog post about racial equity and cannabis. “Dehumanizing images of the lazy, destitute, dangerous, violent, and irresponsible cannabis users were used against Black people while their White counterparts dealt with more benign labels of hippy, lazy, free-spirit, or the ubiquitous friendly ‘weedhead.'”

This thought process leaves certain communities on the outside—labeled as “drug abusers” and facing barriers to its benefits as a healing plant—they explain.

They were initially hesitant about the potential impact that researching, advocating for, and using cannabis could have on their nursing licenses. But this is the very stigma that fueled them, along with their passion for education and advocacy.

So, Lee and Smith embarked on a journey to navigate the uncharted territory of the cannabis industry, particularly with a focus on social equity, aiming to one day see it as an inclusive space for Black and brown communities. 

They knew they had a better shot than most at challenging cannabis shame.

“There is a high level of importance shaping the cannabis industry through the lens of a nurse,” they shared about launching. “Nurses are one of the most trusted groups of professionals; therefore, we are able to break the stigma barriers around cannabis, and we use our healthcare knowledge to help patients navigate safely and confidently.”

They now lead a passionate network of healthcare experts who take the time to give personal consultations and educational resources you won’t find in many places. And it’s revolutionizing the use of cannabis as an alternative therapy.

READ MORE: Your guide to Black-owned cannabis companies in Michigan

Crafting CannaPlans

Thanks to a $50,000 research grant from Gage Cannabis, their ideas took flight. Funds like these are helping to drive equity and undo the damage done within Black and brown communities when it comes to the “War on Drugs.”

Now, their organization, located in downtown Detroit, is a space to meet with clients and create personalized cannabis plans, or CannaPlans, tailored to each person’s unique needs and goals. 

You may be wondering what kinds of conditions cannabis therapy can help treat. Midwest CannaNurses often works with locals who suffer from Crohn’s Disease, chronic pain, autism, and PTSD—a gamut of issues that can keep Michiganders from living their best lives. 

Yes, they directly help people in the region take control of health concerns and live stronger, healthier lives, but it’s also their behind-the-scenes work that sets the organization apart: Changing the narrative surrounding cannabis within the Black community.

Through their educational library, including accredited courses and featured guest lectures around the region, they buck stigma with evidence-based information and a promise to foster understanding in the areas it’s needed most.

This commitment to changing the narrative of cannabis in the Black community is vital for fostering inclusivity, promoting health and wellness, and advancing the field of healthcare and wellness, where people have been the most neglected.

More info:

Midwest CannaNurses

607 Shelby Street, ste. 700, 

Detroit, MI 48226


Book a free 15-minute virtual chat here.




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