Written By: Melissa Cornwell
The American Bar Association takes the stance that maternal drug use is not considered child abuse. Yet, 23 states and the District of Columbia consider substance use during pregnancy to be child abuse under civil child-welfare statutes. Three states consider it grounds for civil commitment. This drug abuse definition includes cannabis since it is still a schedule 1 drug and federally illegal. Multiple studies have been done over the years to determine if cannabis use in pregnancy is safe. One 2017 study♦ found that maternal marijuana use was not associated with small for gestational age, spontaneous preterm birth, or hypertensive disorders of pregnancy. Yet many others warn of the dire consequences of learning disabilities, birth defects, and more.
Recently in May 2020, researchers looked at thousands of research articles and studies over the last several decades to shed light on the truth of cannabis use during pregnancy. Their conclusion read as follows: Despite analyzing studies spanning approximately three decades, we conclude the evidence does not support an association between prenatal cannabis exposure and clinically relevant cognitive deficits. These results concur with a 2016 study that concluded: “Maternal marijuana use during pregnancy is not an independent risk factor for adverse neonatal outcomes after adjusting for confounding factors. Thus, the association between maternal marijuana use and adverse outcomes appears attributable to concomitant tobacco use and other confounding factors.” In other words, cannabis by itself will not cause learning problems. These can be attributed to cigarette smoking or other risk factors. The researchers went on to express concerns that to not adjust for these other “risk factors” is allowing cannabis use in pregnancy to be falsely stigmatized.
Unfortunately, as we all know, cannabis medication has a long way to go in order to be fully accepted for its medical benefits. In this case, we have a group of women being stigmatized and persecuted for using a natural medication to treat their own health problems. These women face persecution, prison, and risk having their baby taken from them by “concerned authorities.” If the lawyers don’t believe it is child abuse, why does the state? Interested in how your state views and handles cannabis use in pregnancy? Here is a link with each state’s legal pathway and stance.
♦ The authors did find that there was an approximate 3% increase in the risk of neonatal morbidity associated with maternal marijuana use. Results do not differentiate between heavy recreational users and medicinal programs.