Moving Toward Health and Social Equity for Women Who Use Cannabis During Preconception, Pregnancy, and Lactation

This commentary, co-authored by PHI’s Lynn Silver, addresses the growing concern about marijuana legalization, the increased prevalence of cannabis use among pregnant women and its adverse effects for fetal, neonatal and neurodevelopmental outcomes.

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With cannabis legalization extending across the US, research on the best policies to protect health and social equity and to minimize harm is critical.

In JAMA Network Open, PHI’s Lynn Silver, MD, MPH and co-authors explore the impacts on expanding cannabis legalization and increasing social acceptability and accessibility, which may potentially be associated with increased use among women of reproductive age.

Read their commentary


Many women using cannabis during pregnancy believe that it carries little risk—but increased use among pregnant women in recent years and increasing evidence of associated adverse effects for fetal, neonatal and neurodevelopmental outcomes are cause for substantial concern.

“As cannabis legalization unfolds and use increases among women of reproductive age, now is the time to reform antiquated policies that criminalize prenatal substance use in favor of focusing on protecting the health of mothers and their children.” – “Moving Toward Health and Social Equity for Women Who Use Cannabis During Preconception, Pregnancy, and Lactation”

Although cannabis legalization may be associated with reduced inequities in criminal justice, it may also be associated with worsening of existing health and social disparities in maternal and child health outcomes: Disparities in low birth weight between Black and non-Black infants are well documented. Prenatal cannabis use can potentially exacerbates these disparities.

In addition, child welfare laws have not kept up with cannabis legalization. Punitive policies criminalizing prenatal substance use and the underlying discrimination in their implementation may also be associated with increased cannabis-related social inequities.

Read the full commentary

Originally published by JAMA Network Open

Additional Contributors

  • Kelly C. Young-Wolff, PhD, MPH
  • Lynn D. Silver, MD, MPH
  • Qiana L. Brown, PhD, MPH, LCSW

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