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Risks of Marijuana Use During Pregnancy
Some sources on the Internet recommend that pregnant mothers use marijuana to treat their morning sickness. Limited research suggests that moms-to-be are taking this advice, particularly during their first trimester, the time addictive drugs pose the greatest risk for harming the fetus.
Marijuana research suggests this is bad advice. A review of existing studies finds that infants whose mothers used marijuana during pregnancy are more likely to be anemic, have lower birth weight, and be placed in neonatal care than mothers who did not use the drug while pregnant. Links have also been made between prenatal marijuana exposure and poor impulse control, visual memory, and attention during school years.
THC content in today’s marijuana is about three times stronger (12 percent compared to 4 percent) than when most studies were done that examined whether mothers’ marijuana use can cause birth defects. In addition, more use of marijuana concentrates that can contain many times higher THC levels is occurring today.
No state that has legalized marijuana for medical use prohibits or even warns expectant mothers about the possible harms marijuana use during pregnancy can pose to their babies. The authors say pregnant women and those considering pregnancy should be warned not to use marijuana recreationally or to treat their nausea. 
This commentary, published under Viewpoint by the current Journal of the American Medical Association, is written by Nora D. Volkow, MD, director; Wilson M. Compton, MD, MPE, deputy director; and Eric M. Wargo, PhD, Science Policy Branch, of the National Institute on Drug Abuse. Read here.
Trends in Marijuana Use Among Pregnant and Nonpregnant Reproductive-Aged Women

Columbia University researchers point out that studies of marijuana use during pregnancy are associated with low birth weight and impaired neurodevelopment. These researchers analyzed data from the National Survey on Drug Use and Health from 2002 through 2014 to determine the extent of marijuana use among pregnant women.
They studied women aged 18 to 25 (29.5 percent) and 26 to 44 (70.5 percent) and find that among pregnant women, past-month marijuana use rose from 2.37 percent to 3.85 percent, an increase of 62 percent. Use was highest in the 18 to 25 age group.
The researchers say that although past month use among pregnant women is not high, “the increases over time and potential adverse consequences of prenatal marijuana exposure suggest further monitoring and research are warranted.” Future studies should also examine dose, frequency of use, and clinical outcomes.
This Research Letter, published in the current Journal of the American Medical Association, can be read here.
Note to Pot Industry: Marijuana Extracts Have Always Been Schedule I Drugs
Pictured above is a marijuana extract. Marijuana extracts are exactly what they sound like: components of marijuana extracted from the plant. Most often what’s extracted is 80 to 90 percent THC, levels that get some people so high they are showing up at emergency departments with overdoses.
In states that have legalized marijuana for medical use, a powerful marijuana industry has emerged that constantly makes new marijuana products. Marijuana extracts are one of the industry’s best sellers and bring in lots of money.
The industry has gotten itself into a tizzy over an announcement the US Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) issued last week. It’s sounding the alarm all over the Internet that DEA has made marijuana extracts, including cannabidiol (CBD), illegal by placing them in Schedule I--where they’ve been all the time.
Here’s the story.
Marijuana is in Schedule I of five schedules of the US Controlled Substances Act (CSA). So are all its components. They always have been. (Schedule I is the most restrictive schedule; Schedule V is the least restrictive.) The only way DEA can legally place a marijuana component into a lower schedule is when a company proves to the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) that a synthesized or extracted and purified version of that component is safe and effective through preclinical and controlled clinical trials to treat a specific condition.
Three companies have done this thus far. Using pure chemicals, they have synthesized (made a molecule-for-molecule copy of) THC to treat a specific condition. One product is dronabinol, trade names Marinol (pill) and Syndros (oral liquid). Another is nabilone, trade name Cesamet (pill). Once FDA approves such medicines, doctors can prescribe them, and DEA moves them to lower schedules: (Marinol, Schedule III; Cesamet, Schedule II; and Syndros, recently approved but not yet scheduled).
These versions of THC can be placed in lower schedules because they have proved they are pure, free from contaminants, have few if any unwanted side-effects, and can relieve or cure a specific condition. But THC itself remains in Schedule I because it has proved none of this.
The same is true of extracts like CBD. One company is close to FDA approval with Phase III clinical trials of a CBD product it extracts from marijuana and purifies. A second company is developing a synthesized version of CBD and is planning clinical trials. If FDA approves either of these products, DEA will place them in lower schedules so that doctors can prescribe them. But just like THC, CBD will stay in Schedule I until marijuana industry czars subject their CBD products to FDA for approval.
The marijuana industry has somehow managed to convince itself that because a state has legalized pot for medical use, it has no responsibility to prove that its products are pure, safe, or effective like every other medicine in the nation has proven. It’s latest effort to turn reality on its head is to accuse DEA of making their products illegal when they’ve been illegal all along.
All DEA did was establish a new code number for marijuana extracts to be able to track them separately from the plant material.
Read the DEA announcement here.
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Note: There will be no Marijuana Report next week. Publication will resume January 4, 2017. Happy Holidays!
The Marijuana Report is a weekly e-newsletter published by National Families in Action in partnership with SAM (Smart Approaches to Marijuana). Visit our website, The Marijuana Report.Org, to learn more about the marijuana story unfolding across the nation.
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About National Families in Action (NFIA)
NFIA consists of families, scientists, business leaders, physicians, addiction specialists, policymakers, and others committed to protecting children from addictive drugs. Our vision is:
  • Healthy, drug-free kids
  • Nurturing, addiction-free families
  • Scientifically accurate information and education
  • A nation free of Big Marijuana
  • Smart, safe, FDA-approved medicines developed from the cannabis plant (and other plants) 
  • Expanded access to medicines in FDA clinical trials for children with epilepsy 
About SAM (Smart Approaches to Marijuana)
SAM is a nonpartisan alliance of lawmakers, scientists and other concerned citizens who want to move beyond simplistic discussions of "incarceration versus legalization" when discussing marijuana use and instead focus on practical changes in marijuana policy that neither demonizes users nor legalizes the drug. SAM supports a treatment, health-first marijuana policy.  SAM has four main goals:
  • To inform public policy with the science of today's marijuana.
  • To reduce the unintended consequences of current marijuana policies, such as lifelong stigma due to arrest.
  • To prevent the establishment of "Big Marijuana" - and a 21st-Century tobacco industry that would market marijuana to children.
  • To promote research of marijuana's medical properties and produce, non-smoked, non-psychoactive pharmacy-attainable medications.
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