A recent study has found that some Colorado dispensaries are promoting cannabis use during pregnancy. Researchers posed as pregnant women looking for help with morning sickness. A majority of the dispensaries contacted recommended medical marijuana products, according to the study in the journal Obstetrics and Gynecology.
Dr. Torri Metz is a high-risk obstetrician at Denver Health in Colorado and one of the authors of the study. She told CNN that she did not anticipate the findings.
“I was really surprised,” Metz said. “I did not expect dispensaries to be recommending cannabis products to pregnant women.”
Researchers selected 400 dispensaries at random for the study. They then called the locations and said they were pregnant women with morning sickness. About 70 percent of employees recommended cannabis products to the callers.
Additionally, about a third said that cannabis is safe during pregnancy. Only 32 percent of employees recommended that the caller seek the advice of a healthcare professional without a prompt from the caller.
Dr. Metz said that pregnant women often look for advice from many sources other than their doctors. And the stigma of cannabis can often make them wary of being fully honest with their physicians.
“Women are hesitant to disclose any kind of drug use in pregnancy to their health care providers for fear of potential legal ramifications or involvement by social services,” she said.
But another obstetrician, Dr. Katrina Mark, warned that patients should not expect dispensaries to offer sound medical advice.
“They are only licensed to dispense to people who have medical marijuana cards,” Mark said. “This does not mean that they are staffed by people that have any sort of medical education.”
Experts Say No Pot During Pregnancy
Medical experts caution against cannabis use during pregnancy. Researchers still have challenges studying pregnant women and their babies, even though much more study is necessary.
“It is unethical to purposely expose women and their unborn babies to marijuana during pregnancy to study outcomes,” Dr. Mark said.
Dr. Metz noted in the study that Colorado does not regulate the advice or recommendations dispensaries may offer. But the state has mandated that product labels warn women that cannabis during pregnancy may not be safe. Packages must include the following statement:
“There may be additional health risks associated with the consumption of this product for women who are pregnant, breastfeeding, or planning on becoming pregnant.”
Dr. Metz believes that women will take good care of their health and that of their babies if they have the information they need.
“I think that the majority of women are really trying to do the right thing for their pregnancy and for their baby,” she added. “I just think we need to get that information to their hands.”
Dr. Mark noted that the end of cannabis prohibition does not mean that marijuana is safe. And she believes that dispensaries should leave offering medical advice to the doctors.
“Legalization does not equate to safety, particularly in pregnancy,” she told CNN. “I actually think that the fact that dispensaries are providing any recommendations for treatment of medical conditions is very much overstepping appropriate boundaries.”