Does Marijuana Use Affect Pregnancy?

No one has a definitive answer on the effect marijuana use while pregnant – I found government studies that say it’s inconclusive and more research needs to be done, and I found plenty of anecdotal evidence that says it does not harm the child and is beneficial to prevent vomiting, help with appetite, and reduce depression. Due to the Federal Government’s continuing to list Cannabis as a Schedule I drug, it is very difficult to conduct any research on its potential beneficial- or harmful- effects.

Well, except the Horry County Police – they must have a definitive answer because they have charged a new mother with child neglect and arrested her after her newborn tested positive for THC…

Can you charge a mother with neglect when there is no consensus as to whether use of cannabis while pregnant is harmful? Even some evidence that is beneficial?

What Does the Research Say About Marijuana Use While Pregnant?

There is abundant anecdotal evidence that marijuana is actually helpful for pregnant women.

Websites like the BabyCenter Community have plenty of stories by moms who insist using marijuana is not harmful to the baby, and some encourage expectant mothers to smoke for its beneficial effects.

Silly pothead moms, encouraging people to use drugs while pregnant – surely academic and government research shows the horrific effects of cannabis use on newborns, right?

Not really.

The Alcohol and Drug Abuse Institute (AIDA) at the University of Washington’s webpage on the subject includes statements like:

  • Marijuana is the most commonly used illicit drug by pregnant women;
  • “It is difficult to be certain about the specific effects of marijuana on pregnancy and the developing fetus;”
  • “We don’t know enough yet to be certain about all of the possible risks;”
  • Mothers should not use marijuana while pregnant “until more information about the potential harms is available;” and
  • “Adverse fetal outcomes related to marijuana use during pregnancy remain unclear.”

There is also information about “preliminary research” results – all of which carefully use the language “x condition is associated with,” never “caused by.”

This is because research has not established that marijuana use while pregnant causes harmful effects – although some possible harmful effects have been observed, they may be caused by other environmental factors. What does that mean?

Here’s an example: Research shows that, in the summer, people eat more ice cream. In the summer, shark attacks also increase. Therefore, an increase in consumption of ice cream is associated with an increase in shark attacks – you cannot say that consumption of ice cream causes shark attacks…

What Does the U.S. Government Say About Marijuana Use While Pregnant?

The National Institute on Drug Abuse, a US federal government research agency that funds 85% of the world’s drug abuse research, also has a webpage on the effects of marijuana use on pregnant mothers – with similar results:

  • The very first sentence on their webpage says: “More research is needed on how marijuana use during pregnancy could impact the health and development of infants;”
  • 20% of pregnant women 24-years old and younger screened positive for marijuana;
  • “There is no human research connecting marijuana use to the chance of miscarriage;” and
  • “Very little is known about marijuana use and breastfeeding;”

Like the AIDA’s report, the National Institute on Drug Abuse carefully uses language like: “research suggests,” cannabis use could,” and “studies show an association.”

So, What’s the Verdict?

There is no verdict.

Many individuals say that marijuana use during pregnancy is helpful. The academic and government research institutes say that it “could” be harmful, and therefore should be avoided. Additionally, they do not seem motivated to conduct any sort of research that would confirm or deny their baseless conclusion. Additionally, the United States Attorney General has indicated that he opposes any sort of legalization, rescheduling, or relaxing of the current draconian drug laws. So, it appears we’re stuck with the limited and inconclusive research that we already had.

Is that enough evidence to put a new mother in jail and charge her with child abuse and neglect?

The leading government research agency on drug abuse says that 20% of women 24 and younger test positive for THC while pregnant – are we going to arrest and jail one in five young women who have babies now?

Charleston, SC Marijuana Defense Lawyer

I don’t know if marijuana use while pregnant negatively affects the baby – neither do the world’s leading researchers on drug abuse. Maybe Horry County DSS, Horry County Police, and the 15th Circuit Solicitor’s Office should ask themselves if their personal opinions justify arresting and jailing newborn mothers in the absence of scientific evidence? Given the current influx of opiates in the Myrtle Beach area, focusing law enforcement efforts and taxpayer dollars on jailing a woman for testing positive for THC seems misguided at best- particularly without any medical evidence to back it up.

Charleston criminal defense lawyer Grant Smaldone focuses his practice on criminal defense in the Charleston, Myrtle Beach, and Eastern SC area. Call now at (843) 808-2100 or fill out our online contact form to schedule a free consultation.