The cannabis industry is trying to convince pregnant women the drug is safe

Published on
July 21, 2019

In a small clinic in Fresno, California, a gynecologist says the use of marijuana among his patients is not new. More than half of the pregnant women who come to his clinic consume marijuana. “At least, three out of 10 of those patients are Hispanic. Some of them have decided not stop using it during pregnancy,” Dr. Daniel Gutierrez says. 

Even though this doctor doesn’t prescribe medical marijuana to those patients, he knows pregnant women receive medical advice that cannabis is effective for the treatment of nausea, vomiting and headaches. According to 2018 research from Denver, 70% of marijuana dispensaries recommended cannabis to treat morning sickness. “Those moms think marijuana is relatively safer because of the perception that it is natural compared with a synthetic drug treatment,” Gutierrez said. 

A study published in in the medical journal JAMA found that the percentage of pregnant women who reported using marijuana increased from 3.4% in 2002 to 7% in 2017. Researchers concluded that medical marijuana is becoming increasingly accepted among pregnant mothers at the same time that it is being legalized in more states.

In low-income communities in the San Joaquin Valley of California, the consumption of marijuana during pregnancy is a topic of conversation among the Latino community. According to research conducted by the California Department of Public Health, 73% of participants from Chico, Fresno, Sacramento, Oakland and Los Angeles reported that they used cannabis to treat pregnancy-related symptoms in 2017-18.

Is marijuana harmful during pregnancy? This is still a big question. There are little data on prenatal exposure to marijuana but studies found it can potentially impact the long-term development of children. “It is biologically plausible that marijuana use during pregnancy could affect both maternal and fetal outcomes,” the American Academy of Pediatricians said.

On social media and online communities, there is growing support for the use of marijuana during pregnancy. Women from across the country are sharing their experiences and spreading the message that cannabis use is harmless for moms and babies.

For my 2019 National Project, I will be investigating the main reasons Hispanic women use marijuana during pregnancy; the counseling pregnant women receive from their health care providers and how this communication impacts the perception of marijuana use as a safety drug. Also, the message cannabis dispensaries are sending around marijuana as a morning sickness treatment.