By Lindsey Tanner, Associated Press
(AP) — Pregnancy started out rough for Leslie Siu. Morning sickness and migraines had her reeling and barely able to function at a demanding New York marketing job, so like rising numbers of U.S. mothers-to-be, she turned to marijuana.
“l was finally able to get out from under my work desk,” said Siu, who later started her own cannabis company and says her daughter, now 4, is thriving.
There’s no proof that cannabis can relieve morning sickness, and mainstream medicine advises against use in pregnancy because of studies suggesting it might cause premature birth, low birthweight and infant brain deficits. But the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) is pressing for more solid evidence. Many of those studies were in animals or complicated by marijuana users’ other habits and lifestyles.
“I don’t want us to cry wolf,” said Dr. Nora Volkow, NIDA’s director. “We have to do these studies in a way that can identify risks.”
With nearly $200,000 from her agency, University of Washington scientists in Seattle are seeking clearer answers in a new study investigating potential effects on infants’ brains. The agency is supporting three similar studies in other states.
In Seattle, they’re enrolling pregnant women during their first trimester who are already using marijuana for morning sickness. Researchers don’t provide the marijuana, and the use of other drugs, tobacco and alcohol isn’t allowed. Infants will undergo brain scans at 6 months and will be compared with babies whose mothers didn’t use marijuana while pregnant.
For government and university authorities, it’s worthy research that takes advantage of a booming trend. Recent data show the number of pregnant U.S. marijuana users has doubled since 2002, with 7% reporting recent use and higher rates in some states.
Siu now lives in Denver, where marijuana is legal, and sells a marijuana-based spray. She said marijuana deserves to be studied “so we can get the right answers.”
AP Photo/Richard Vogel