Medical cannabis and recreational marijuana have now become available in many states across the United States. This change has led to the widespread perception that marijuana is very safe and, that it is even safer than alcohol. While this may be true in some ways, the fact is that alcohol is extremely toxic to unborn babies. Even in low doses, alcohol causes severe brain damage to unborn babies – Fetal Alcohol Syndrome (FAS). Unfortunately, it turns out that marijuana is also toxic to unborn babies and many people are unaware of this. It is particularly a problem with the high potency cannabis products that are now more available.

Several recent studies have shown that THC exposure changes the unborn brain in many regions. It affects the dopamine system, the glutamate system and the GABAergic (sedative) neurotransmitter systems. This can lead to long-term problems with stress, emotional problems, and with learning and intelligence. Use of marijuana products during pregnancy can lead to negative effects on arousal, sleep, memory, and aggression. There can also be developmental and behavioral concerns going into childhood for babies who were exposed to THC before birth.

The situation is even worse if the mother has a cannabis use disorder. This would be a situation where mother’s cannabis use is so frequent that there are negative consequences – such as spending lots of time trying to get the cannabis or there could even be a physical dependence. These situations dramatically affect the mother’s ability to care for the child and provide a nurturing, loving environment for her child.

Frankly, most people do not know quite how dangerous pot is during pregnancy. About 25% of women under 25 years old think it is very safe, and many pregnant women think it is a good choice to treat the nausea that can be associated with pregnancy. We are likely going to see more and more problems with babies and children affected by cannabis use during the pregnancy. We need to spread the facts regarding the risks associated with cannabis and its potential harm for pregnant mothers and their newborns.