In the wake of reports from gynecologists that pregnant women are turning to medical marijuana to combat morning sickness, Colorado lawmakers and public health officials are pushing legislation that would require all dispensaries to post warnings that, just like alcohol and tobacco, cannabis isn’t safe for fetuses.
“The feeling was that pregnant women were almost being marketed to,” said Rep. Jack Tate, R-Centennial. He introduced his HB 1298 last month. It passed through a health committee last week and is now being debated on the floor of the House.
“Sometimes the marketing is overt, like Coors light is ‘wonderful and refreshing,’ sometimes it’s informal, like the idea that nausea can be treated with marijuana absent proper health information,” said Tate.
The state department of health agrees with him. It notes that research on marijuana’s impact on pregnancies is thin, but nevertheless maintains that there is no “safe” amount of THC for a pregnant or breastfeeding mother to consume. Health officials say some research indicates early exposure to THC can reduce a child’s IQ and make it more difficult for them to focus later in life.
The department has even put out a flier “Marijuana and your baby,” which Tate said will serve as the model for the signs retail and medial marijuana shops would be required to post if the legislation passes.
Katrina Mark, an OBGYN at the University of Maryland School of Medicine who researches marijuana use during pregnancy, said the policy is a step in the right direction.
“We don’t have enough research yet to know the safety,” she said. “There are some studies that show potential harms, so it’s important for women to know amid changing policies and increased acceptance and accessibility, that when people talk about the safety of marijuana that doesn’t necessarily apply to pregnancy. It’s the same as alcohol, which we consider safe for public consumption in moderation but not for pregnant women.”
Mark said marijuana use among pregnant and breastfeeding mothers is extremely hard to study because most of the cases are retrospective, based on self-reported use and complicated by situational factors such as cigarette smoking and socioeconomic disparities.
The Colorado Cannabis Chamber of Commerce opposes the policy, partly arguing the same point – that the law is based too much on anecdotal evidence and unfairly singles out marijuana.
“Unfortunately, this legislation is relying too much on fear tactics to scare the public in an effort to continue the regulatory pile up of burdensome laws and rules aimed at stifling market growth,” said Tyler Henson, Chamber president.
Mark argued that everyone should share the burden of educating people about marijuana in the context of quickly changing norms.
“There is a need to inform pregnant women,” said Mark. “Part of that falls on OBGYNs and healthcare providers in general, but I do think a little of that responsibility falls on the people who are promoting the use in the first place.”
Image via Tips Times.