A panel in California has declared that marijuana smoke and THC – the chemical within the drug responsible for producing the ‘high’ – pose a risk to women who are pregnant, as well as to their unborn babies. The move will require all legal cannabis products sold in California to carry warning labels, though changes will not begin for a year.
Scientists made up the nine-member panel, which formed the Development and Reproductive Toxicant Identification Committee, who considered the accuracy and reliability of a number of detailed research studies that investigated the effects of marijuana on people, fish, mice and rats.
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Surgeon General Says Cannabis Use While Pregnant is Dangerous
Back in August, the U.S. Surgeon General warned of the dangers associated with smoking marijuana by pregnant women and the effects it can have on their growing fetuses. Studies suggest cannabis use while pregnant may cause a number of health problems, low birth weight or premature birth, however most of those studies looked at animals, or their findings are still being disputed.
After hours of deliberation, the final decision was made, and the Californian panel was satisfied that evidence to support the move to require warning labels, was sufficient. That outcome has been met with concern from the state’s legal marijuana industry, as some study designs that were reviewed, have their flaws.
Study Design Flaws
Shortcomings among those studies include:
- looking only at women who smoked marijuana, but not those using cannabis via other methods, like edibles, topical lotions or vapes;
- ambiguity surrounding the frequency of a mother’s cannabis use during pregnancy;
- failing to note whether marijuana and tobacco were used together; or
- basing results solely on participant self-reporting.
Each of these study design flaws alone could skew results, which is why Californian cannabis advocacy groups are alarmed, calling the validity of the study body results into question.
The review of studies took place under the scope of the Safe Drinking Water and Toxic Enforcement Act, also known as Proposition 65, at a time when surveys have shown an increase in the number of expectant mothers choosing marijuana products to help relieve morning sickness and headaches.
Proposition 65 states that warning labels are required on all products containing chemicals deemed hazardous, and permits attorneys, advocacy groups and residents to sue on the state’s behalf, as well as collect civil penalties if such warnings are shown to be missing. This is obviously another point of concern for marijuana companies throughout the state.
Lack of Scientific Evidence
While no scientific evidence exists to prove that cannabis is effective in treating the discomforts associated with pregnancy, the California Cannabis Industry Association (CCIA) rightly notes that research sanctioned by government agencies has long been blocked, as marijuana is still federally listed as an illegal drug.
To help remedy this lack of evidence, the National Institute on Drug Abuse is currently funding several studies examining cannabis effects on mothers-to-be.
The panel’s ruling raises legitimate concerns over the potential impact on California’s legal marijuana marketplace.
Industry officials note that very little sound research has been conducted or warrants a move. Fears are growing too that lawyers could easily target cannabis companies with loose claims of harm caused by marijuana use among pregnant women.
With time, we can expect to see packaging updates enforced, to include appropriate warning labels addressing this increased risk to pregnant women. Though that undertaking will likely first require a number of steps directed by the agencies currently overseeing cannabis regulation and its packaging.
In any case, time will tell just what kind of an impact this change will have on California’s young cannabis industry.
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Proposition 65 – The Safe Drinking Water and Toxic Enforcement Act