Does Marijuana Consumption Make a Mother Unfit?
Cigarette and alcohol packaging give clear caution against consumption while pregnant or breastfeeding. The American Medical Association (AMA) now provides the same warnings on marijuana packaging- if a little less strongly worded. There have been numerous cases of children removed from their mother’s care almost immediately after birth due to positive tests of marijuana in the child, usually due to poppy seeds or some other substance that has created a false positive.
Or, in the case of mothers such as Hollie Sanford, who believe marijuana is a safer painkiller than those prescribed by doctors, there are two sides who both believe they are right. Sanford used cannabis to treat her morning sickness and extreme sciatic pain during her pregnancy, truly believing it was the safer treatment for her child. Others would argue the traditional painkillers are a safer route. As of yet, there is no clear evidence to confirm or deny the effects:
- The Food and Drug Administration puts opioids such as hydrocodone and oxycodone in Category C, meaning “animal reproduction studies have shown an adverse effect on the fetus and there are no adequate and well-controlled studies in humans,” although “potential benefits may warrant use of the drug in pregnant women despite potential risks.”
- On the other hand: The National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) says “research in rats suggests that exposure to even low concentrations of THC late in pregnancy could have profound and long-lasting consequences for both brain and behavior of offspring.” Adding that “human studies have shown that some babies born to women who used marijuana during their pregnancies respond differently to visual stimuli, tremble more, and have a high-pitched cry, which could indicate problems with neurological development.” NIDA also notes that “children prenatally exposed to marijuana are more likely to show gaps in problem-solving skills, memory, and the ability to remain attentive.”
- However, “more research is needed…to disentangle marijuana’s specific effects from other environmental factors, including maternal nutrition, exposure to nurturing/neglect, and use of other substances by mothers.”
While we would never want to risk the health of our children, it is just as important to keep families together whenever possible, especially when the mother is wrongfully accused of mistreatment. It is difficult to discern what effects that arise in children are due to marijuana use, and which are due to other environmental and social factors.
Along with legalization, these contingent situations come into question, and both research and and the law play an important role in determining where the line is drawn. If your child has been wrongfully taken away from you in a ruling related to prenatal marijuana use, call the Law Offices of Glew & Kim for a free consultation at 714-648-0004.
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