Nearly 70 percent of 400 marijuana dispensaries included in a recent study advised a woman who claimed to be pregnant and suffering from morning sickness to use the drug to treat her ailment. Although the science on whether or not marijuana affects a developing fetus is still unclear, this finding shows there is a problem in dispensary worker training when it comes to dealing with pregnant customers.
The study, published in Obstetrics & Gynecology, was completed by researchers from the University of Colorado School of Medicine, Colorado School of Public Health and the University of Utah. The researchers contacted 465 dispensaries in Colorado, 400 of which resulted in valid calls that could be included as data in the study. Of these dispensaries, 37 percent were licensed for medical sale, 28 percent were licensed for retail only, and 35 percent were licensed for both.
A woman called the dispensaries claiming to be eight weeks pregnant and asking for advice on how to deal with morning sickness. Ultimately, 81.5 percent of dispensaries recommended discussion of marijuana use with a health care provider. However, 69 percent of the dispensaries (277 out of 400) also personally recommended marijuana use to treat the morning sickness for the pregnant caller.
Eighty three percent of dispensaries with a medical license recommended marijuana to the pregnant caller, while only 60.4 percent of those with a retail license and 61.7 percent of those with both licenses made this recommendation. The most frequent recommendation was edibles followed by inhalation.
The study also noted that only 31.8 percent of dispensaries advised the caller to consult a health care provider about her query without prompting from the caller.
The Marijuana Industry Group stated that it is protocol for dispensary workers to urge customers to speak with a medical professional for any of their health questions, WFTS Tampa Bay reported.
“What this tells us as an industry is that we have a gap in our ‘onboarding process,’ in terms of training our dispensary workers to provide not just a good conversation on products, usage and dosing…but it’s very important that employees clarify they are not medical professionals,” said Kristi Kelly, the group’s executive director, WFTS reported.
Although marijuana is medically known for reducing nausea, a common side effect of morning sickness, the science is still not clear if marijuana use during pregnancy affects a fetus. The placenta is designed to prevent harmful molecules in the mother’s body from coming into contact with the fetus, but it’s unclear if any components of marijuana are able to break through this barrier. We also don’t know if the marijuana components would have any adverse effect on a fetus. Multiple studies provide conflicting results.
Dr. James Betoni, DO, a leading board certified high risk maternal fetal medicine and OB/GYN in Boise, ID, and creator of the Pregnancy Power app and workbook, previously told Newsweek that numerous factors can potentially contribute to how marijuana may affect a fetus, including how often the mother uses the drug and her overall health.
For this reason, Betoni, and other medical experts advise that when in doubt, it’s best to simply forgo marijuana use during pregnancy.