When Denise Foster went into nursing, she had starry-eyed visions of saving others.
“I don’t think I was much different from most people who pursue nursing,” she says. “When you start out, you think you can save the world, that everyone will listen to you and be better off because of it.”
With that lofty goal, Denise earned both a bachelor’s degree and a master’s degree from Old Dominion University. She went on to earn a Ph.D. in higher education from Regent University. After working in home healthcare, she worked in higher education at ODU, as well as distance-education at universities across the country. Her specialty was teaching the hard sciences, pathophysiology, and pharmacology.
“I’ve worked in nursing for 35-plus years, and unfortunately, the starry-eyed vision I had when starting out hasn’t been the reality I’ve encountered,” Denise observes. “In fact, as far as public health is concerned, I think things have gotten worse over the years. We have increased rates of diseases like obesity and diabetes. There is more heart disease, and there are more cancers linked to stress, diet and environmental factors. We have access to all of this remarkable research on healthy diets and exercise—and most people just ignore it.”
“This is the first Hemp Haven on the East Coast… using hemp as a regular dietary supplement is healthy in so many ways.”
—Denise Foster, RN
With this awareness, Denise was shocked when, a few years ago, her best friend told her about her son’s clinical use of medical cannabis.
“I pooh-poohed the entire idea,” Denise recalls. “I always thought cannabis was a drug of abuse. After all, that’s what most of us were taught in school. For seventy years, that is how most Americans have thought of cannabis. When my friend told me about her son’s clinical use, I objected. But my friend persisted and finally convinced me to research the matter. I have always been a big fan of doing research—a total research geek. So, I took her up on the challenge.
“When I delved into researching cannabis, I was floored by what I discovered,” Denise relates. “Cannabis has been the most investigated drug in the world. It contains two compounds—THC and CBD—each of which has many medical applications and therapeutic uses. The US Department of Health and Human Services patented cannabis as medicine, with antioxidant and neuroprotective properties, in 1999. CBD is effective in treating anxiety, epilepsy, and even psychosis. THC is used as a sleep aid, a painkiller, and an antiemetic. It is also used as an appetite stimulant and is especially beneficial to people being treated for cancer. Those treatments can negatively impact a patient’s appetite at a time when it is more essential than ever that they maintain nourishment.”
“One of the FDA-approved treatments for cancer patients that we’ve been using since the 1970s is Marinol,” Denise continues. “Nurses administer this to cancer patients all the time. I learned that Marinol is synthetic THC, created and dispensed with government approval for over forty years!”
As Denise continued her research, she learned that humans, like all mammals, have an endocannabinoid system that regulates a wide range of functions and processes like sleep, mood, appetite, memory, reproduction and fertility. “Even though researchers discovered the endocannabinoid system in the early 1980s, I knew nothing about it,” Denise laughs. “I should have been aware of this while teaching.”
Denise’s extensive research caused her to not only change her mind about cannabis but to also pursue a new direction in her medical career. “I decided to become a cannabis nurse. When used appropriately, medical cannabis is an option for cancer patients if they live in states where its use is legal. As of 2020, medical cannabis is now legal in about 35 states—including Virginia. Two years ago, the National Council of State Boards of Nursing (NCSBN) issued nursing guidelines for the use of medical cannabis. I’m a former board member of the American Cannabis Nurses Association, having served as former secretary and regional director.”
Denise notes that the medical community is trending away from medical cannabis toward the use of hemp. Both plants belong to the same family, and both carry THC and CBD. While researching the use of hemp products, Denise learned of a Missouri couple whose experiences with medical cannabis and hemp had also changed their career trajectory.
Like many Americans, Jay Humfeld and Danielle Friedrich worked in unfulfilling day jobs. Danielle managed multiple medical practices. Jay worked in corporate sales and management. After the death of her young sister, Danielle began suffering from severe depression, anxiety, and panic attacks. Having been active in sports, Jay suffered from severe back pain; two surgeries still failed to bring relief or return him to his active lifestyle. Then they discovered CBD. It changed their lives.
After experiencing CBD’s benefits, they decided to start their own website to sell it. Soon realizing that customers wanted to talk to them, ask questions, and see the products in person, they decided to leave their full-time jobs and open a store—Hemp Haven. Less than 30 days after opening their doors, they sold two additional franchises. After being open only 10 months, they had 12 stores and were planning to open more. Their goal was to be the largest CBD franchise in the country.
When, through a fellow cannabis nurse, Denise learned of Danielle and Jay’s work, she realized that
it resonated with her goal of educating people about CBD. She met the couple, and now, a year later, she has opened a store in Chesapeake.
“This is the first Hemp Haven on the East Coast,” Denise says with pride.
“Every product that I sell is perfectly safe. Customers will find hemp seed oils and even hemp pasta—which, nutritionally, is high in OMEGA 3 fatty acids. I sell hemp protein. Because hemp is one of the few plants that has protein, it is perfect for anyone on a vegan diet. If customers come to me and say they want to take a particular product for a particular issue, I always tell them to consult their physician first. But using hemp as a regular dietary supplement is healthy in so many ways.”
“The big takeaway is that hemp is good for people and good for the planet,” Denise concludes. “As far as the environment is concerned, it can replace paper, wood, and even concrete. With regards to health, everybody can benefit from CBD because a daily dose can regulate the endocannabinoid system. The components in hemp work on the entire body, offering a holistic approach to wellness.”
And helping others achieve wellness is why Denise became a nurse in the first place.