A study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association on Tuesday has shown that marijuana use among pregnant women is on the rise.
Young women, aged 18 to 24 are the most likely to use weed while pregnant and marijuana use among this age group has increased the most. The survey studied 279,457 pregnant women in the Kaiser Permanente Northern California healthcare system using self-reporting and toxicology screenings.
Marijuana use among pregnant women in California rose from 4.2 percent to 7.1 percent from 2009 through 2016. Women often used cannabis to seek relief from anxiety and morning sickness.
Use climbed from 12.5 percent to 21.8 percent among pregnant teens younger than 18, and from 9.8 percent to 19 percent for those 18 to 24.
Across the U.S., marijuana use among pregnant women aged 18-44 rose from 2.37 percent to 3.85 percent from 2002 to 2014.
So why is marijuana use among expecting mothers on the rise, despite warnings from doctors that it could cause developmental problems for the fetus?
One potential answer is that we are seeing a new generation of mothers begin to appear. In California, medical marijuana was legalized in 1996 and with it, the stigma surrounding cannabis in the state began to decrease dramatically. It is highly likely that women nowadays are just more accepting of marijuana as a legitimate form of medical therapy rather than an illicit drug.
“The paper is not surprising, and the findings of a rise in marijuana use during the pregnancy is consistent with recent attention to marijuana and legalization in various states,” said Dr. Haywood Brown of Duke University School of Medicine.
There is also another factor to take into consideration as well. Although cannabis has been medically legal in California since 1996 and is just days away from becoming recreationally legal, it remains a scheduled drug in the eyes of the federal government. As such, extensive research into the effects of marijuana, whether someone is pregnant or not, has been decidedly limited. The medical risks of smoking marijuana while pregnant are simply not as well known as they should be.
Cannabis availability is on the rise as more states and cities decriminalize and legalize weed within their boundaries. The federal scheduling of marijuana is holding back critical cannabis education and research that needs to take place in order to keep up with demand.