Pot Shop Pregnancy Warning Sign Bill Dies Over Fairness Issues

Pot Shop Pregnancy Warning Sign Bill Dies Over Fairness Issues
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Update: Earlier this month, we told you about a proposal in the Colorado General Assembly to require dispensaries to post warnings to women about the dangers of marijuana use during pregnancy.

Afterward, many readers weighed in with objections to the proposal.

Some pointed to the lack of consensus among medical pros about the dangers of cannabis use for pregnant women.

Others questioned the fairness of the proposal, pointing out that bars and liquor stores face no such requirement even though the harm alcohol can do to unborn children is extremely well-documented at this point.

Turns out the latter argument won the day, leading to the measure's defeat in the Senate.

A photo of State Representative Jack Tate from his Facebook page.
A photo of State Representative Jack Tate from his Facebook page.
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The legislation, known as House Bill 15-1298, was sponsored by Representative Jack Tate. Here's how he described its genesis in a Facebook post:

I originally introduced HB-1036 in January to require medical marijuana dispensaries to warn pregnant women about the dangers of marijuana to a fetus. Women have been reporting the use of medical marijuana to treat nausea without knowing that marijuana is harmful to a developing child.

The marijuana industry has been rabidly promoting the idea that the drug is less harmful than alcohol. As a result, there is asymmetrical information out there for those cases in which it is quite damaging and dangerous.

I scuttled the original Bill, due to the Democrats' concerns over the use of the medical term 'fetus', and came back with HB-1298.

The bill passed its first committee test, then won preliminary approval in the Colorado House. However, it ran aground in the state senate. According to the Associated Press, it was on the short end of a 5-4 committee vote owing to a number of Republicans who saw it as unfair to ask dispensaries to post such a warning when establishments that sell and serve liquor aren't required to do so.

Read the bill and learn more about the issue in our previous coverage below.

Original post, 4:20 p.m. April 7: A bill that would require dispensaries to post signs warning women not to smoke marijuana when they're pregnant won preliminary approval from the Colorado House yesterday.

The measure, House Bill 15-1298, appears below in its entirety.

We've also included a Colorado Public Health and Environment report from earlier this year devoted almost entirely to negative impacts from pot use.

Surprisingly, the CDPHE report's section on marijuana concedes that research is lacking when it comes to pinning down the effects of cannabis consumption during pregnancy — and this same tone is struck by a 2013 American Academy of Pediatrics report shared here as well.

In addition, some legislators have questioned whether the legislation contradicts the concept of treating marijuana like alcohol, since liquor stores aren't required to post warning signs about pregnancy dangers even though the risks of alcohol use during this stage are very well known.

But as the Associated Press points out, the measure has bipartisan support and appears to be gaining momentum.

HB 15-1298 is sponsored by Representative Jack Tate from Centennial. Its summary reads:

The bill requires the department of revenue to promulgate rules regarding a requirement that a licensed medical marijuana center and a licensed retail marijuana store display in a conspicuous location a sign that warns pregnant women about the potential risks caused by marijuana.

The rules shall include the specific language developed in consultation with the department of public health and environment regarding the warning that must be included on the sign.

The bill prohibits a medical marijuana center and a retail marijuana store from knowingly directing marijuana advertising to pregnant women.

State Representative Jack Tate is the sponsor of HB 15-1298..
State Representative Jack Tate is the sponsor of HB 15-1298..

The CDPHE's fears about marijuana use by pregnant women are outlined in "Monitoring Health Concerns Related to Marijuana in Colorado," issued earlier this year. Here's a key passage:

Marijuana use in pregnant and breastfeeding mothers is a public health concern due to the potential harmful effects of tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) on the developing fetus — with specific focus on the potential risk for birth defects, abnormal growth and physical development, and perhaps most critically, sub-normal brain development. Adverse effects of alcohol and tobacco consumption during pregnancy are well-documented. While research on fetal health outcomes related to marijuana exposure is limited, there is no known “safe” amount of marijuana use for women during pregnancy. Additionally, biological evidence demonstrates that THC is present in the breast milk of women who use marijuana during the months they are breastfeeding, and there is evidence that infants who drink breast milk containing THC absorb and metabolize THC.

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The report's findings include "moderate evidence that maternal use of marijuana during pregnancy is associated with negative effects on exposed offspring, including decreased academic ability, cognitive function and attention," as well as "moderate evidence that maternal use of marijuana during pregnancy is associated with decreased growth in exposed offspring."

But the authors concede that this information is largely based on data from older studies designed to identify negative effects of marijuana, implying a possible bias — and the information isn't considered strong enough to be definitive. Another excerpt:

Health care providers’ current collection of information on marijuana use by amount, frequency, and method of use is limited. Adequate assessment of the link between marijuana use during pregnancy and adverse health outcomes, for both pregnant women and their exposed offspring, must begin with consistent, standardized data collection about marijuana use from pregnant women at all their pregnancy-related medical appointments and be followed by collection of accurate birth outcome data. The committee recommended public health monitoring to help clarify the possible contribution of marijuana use to major birth defects.

"Prenatal Substance Abuse: Short- and Long-term Effects on the Exposed Fetus," a 2013 technical report from the American Academy of Pediatrics, features similar hedges. A passage from its summary section reads:

Although there have been studies revealing subtle abnormalities in infant neurobehavior related to prenatal marijuana exposure, there have been no significant effects documented for fetal growth, congenital anomalies, or withdrawal. Long-term studies reveal effects of prenatal exposure on behavior, cognition, and achievement but not on language or growth.

Does that mean warning signs in dispensaries are premature? Or is it better to be safe than sorry? Decide for yourself by reading the bill and the reports from the CDPHE and the American Academy of Pediatrics.


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