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The panel of nine scientists, which is part of California's Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment, voted December 11 to require warning labels on all legally sold marijuana products in the state. The labels will notify women that THC and marijuana smoke can cause developmental problems in babies. Marijuana products in California must already carry warning labels stating that they "may be harmful" while pregnant or breastfeeding.
California's decision comes as more women report using marijuana during pregnancy, even as medical organizations, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and the U.S. Surgeon General sound alarms about the potential ill effects of cannabis use on pregnant women and developing babies.
Because California is the nation's most populous state and the country's largest marijuana market, decisions there could ultimately influence how marijuana products are sold and labeled in other states.
To reach its decision, the panel reviewed dozens of studies looking at whether marijuana use in pregnancy affects babies' development in the womb, risk for preterm birth and low birth weight, neurological problems such as lower IQ and behavioral difficulties, and chances of death. Some of the studies relied on moms' own reports of marijuana use, which can be unreliable, or didn't account for other potentially harmful factors such as tobacco use. Other data sources were animal studies, so it's hard to know whether those findings apply to humans.
Nevertheless, the panel concluded 8 to 1 that the evidence was strong enough to require warning labels. Cannabis industry representatives, unsurprisingly, disagreed.
It could still take a year for the labels to actually appear on the products. The state still has to figure out exactly what the warnings will say. Also, state officials may decide that only products with certain levels of THC will require a warning (which could mean CBD products won't be included, even though they contain trace amounts of THC).
Here's more information about the latest research on cannabis use and safety during pregnancy.
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