Are Colorado Dispensaries Recommending Pot For Morning Sickness?

By Beth Leipholtz 05/16/18

For a new study, researchers investigated whether the dispensaries would endorse marijuana use for pregnancy-induced nausea.

woman lying down and clutching her stomach in pain.

Eighty-three percent of medical marijuana dispensaries in Colorado recommend marijuana to women who are experiencing first-trimester pregnancy nausea, according to a new study. 

For the study, published in the journal Obstetrics and Gynecology, researchers called 400 dispensaries in Colorado, pretending to be women who were 8-weeks pregnant and experiencing severe nausea. 

Researchers called medical dispensaries and retail shops. Overall, 69% of the dispensaries contacted recommended marijuana for pregnancy-induced nausea. More than 35% specifically said that marijuana use was safe during pregnancy. 

"That's pretty high when they are specifically endorsing safety and we certainly don't have any safety data,” senior author Torri D. Metz, MD, from the Denver Health and Hospital Authority, Colorado, said in the journal’s podcast, according to Medscape

Researchers had initially hypothesized that half of the dispensaries would endorse marijuana as a remedy for morning sickness, and were surprised to find it was much higher. This is especially true given that the state has a public service campaign aimed at educating the public about the dangers of marijuana use throughout pregnancy. 

"There is no way that people working at these dispensaries haven't been exposed to that education... It was surprising to me that despite that push, despite these [product] warning labels that say these may be harmful to pregnant women... they're still advising use,” Metz said. 

Last year a study found that nearly 7% of pregnant women, and 19% of pregnant woman ages 18-24, report using marijuana during their pregnancies. Dr. Nora D. Volkow, director of the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), wrote an accompanying editorial saying that this trend was cause for concern. 

“Some sources on the internet are touting marijuana as a solution for the nausea that commonly accompanies pregnancy, including the severe condition hyperemesis gravidarum,” she wrote, noting that these women are using marijuana “particularly during the first trimester of pregnancy, which is the period of greatest risk for the deleterious effects of drug exposure to the fetus.”

However, the dangers of marijuana use while pregnant are not understood and doctors recommend avoiding cannabis entirely while pregnant. 

“More research is needed to clarify the neurodevelopmental effects of prenatal exposure to marijuana,” Volkow wrote.

Metz said that after marijuana was legalized in Colorado, she initially had more patients reporting that they used the drug. However, that has tapered off, likely because the drug remains a Schedule I substance federally and use by mothers still needs to be reported to Colorado social services. This can leave pregnant women feeling like they have nowhere to turn for reliable information about using marijuana during pregnancy. 

"Pregnant women who are interested in using marijuana may refrain from seeking safety information from healthcare providers as a result of fear of legal repercussions and instead seek advice from cannabis retailers," the researchers wrote.

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Beth is a Minnesota girl who got sober at age 20. By day she is a website designer, and in her spare time she enjoys writing about recovery at, doing graphic design and spending time with her boyfriend and three dogs. Find Beth on LinkedInInstagram and Twitter.