Doctors Raise Concerns Over Marketing Cannabis To Pregnant Women With Morning Sickness

Many marijuana dispensaries in Colorado are telling individuals that marijuana use during pregnancy is safe, despite little to no data of its effect on pregnant women or the unborn children, according to the findings of new research. 

In a study published in the journal Obstetrics & Gynecology on May 7, researchers with the University of Colorado warn that seven out of 10 marijuana dispensaries in that state tell pregnant women marijuana use is safe for the treatment of morning sickness, and rarely advise them to check with their doctor.

The research involves a survey of 400 marijuana dispensaries in Colorado, selected randomly from the Colorado Department of Revenue Enforcement Division website, and included those licensed for medical sale and retail. Female callers told the dispensaries they were eight weeks pregnant and experiencing morning sickness. They asked if the dispensary recommended using marijuana during the first trimester of pregnancy for nausea and if it was safe.

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More than 70% of dispensaries recommended the pregnant woman treat her morning sickness with cannabis products. The majority of dispensaries, about 65%, based their recommendations solely on personal opinion.

More than one-third of dispensaries that were called explicitly stated marijuana use was “safe during pregnancy.”

While, eventually during the calls, more than 80% of dispensaries said the caller should ultimately ask their doctor about its safety, only 31% made that recommendation without being prompted by the caller.

Several dispensaries recommended using edible marijuana products instead of smoking it, suggesting that would make it safer for the baby, despite the increased potency of edible marijuana products. Some shops warned callers not to ask their doctor because the doctor might lie to the patient.

Overall, about 83% of dispensaries that recommended using marijuana during pregnancy were licensed for medical sale. About 60% of retail shops recommended it and 61% of shops that were both medical and retail licensed also recommended it.

Medical dispensaries are allowed to sell marijuana only to customers who have medical marijuana cards. They are generally not considered to be staffed by people who have any medical education or in- depth knowledge concerning medical marijuana use.

Recommendations for marijuana use during pregnancy were similar between urban and non-urban dispensaries.

Researchers indicate that they were surprised so many dispensaries recommended using marijuana during pregnancy. Those recommendations go against most doctor’s strict warnings concerning the potential harm marijuana may have on the baby.

Women often turn to multiple sources, outside of their doctor, regarding drug use during pregnancy. Often those sources include dispensaries, the internet, family, and friends. However, most of those sources do not have in depth medical knowledge.

Many women may also be scared to disclose drug use to their doctor during pregnancy for fear of legal ramifications or involvement of social services.

This leads them to turn to marijuana dispensaries, thinking the dispensaries have highly specialized knowledge. However, most have little knowledge concerning medical safety. More so, the recommendations of some employees may not reflect the official policy of that dispensary.

“As cannabis legalization expands, policy and education efforts should involve dispensaries,” the study’s authors wrote.

The effects of marijuana on a fetus are not fully researched, health experts warn, but may include low birth weight and developmental problems. Animal studies shown THC does cross the placenta and may lead to side effects. The full extent of the effect on a fetus is unclear.

The American College of Obstetrics and Gynecologists recommend women who are pregnant should stop marijuana use immediately.


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