Marijuana Use Among Pregnant Women Drops in Colorado

Marijuana use among pregnant women hit a five-year low in 2020, according to an annual report.
Marijuana use among pregnant women hit a five-year low in 2020, according to an annual report. Jamie Coupaud on Unsplash
Marijuana use among pregnant women in Colorado dropped in 2020, according to a report released in November by the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment.

The CDPHE's annual Pregnancy Risk Assessment Monitoring System showed that marijuana use dropped to the lowest level since 2015 among Colorado women during the first three months, last three months and point of pregnancy.

Although the CDPHE has been collecting data to identify behaviors and experiences of pregnant women since 1997, it didn't begin publishing data about prenatal marijuana use in PRAMS reports until 2016, two years after recreational pot sales began in Colorado. The CDPHE actually began including marijuana use questions in its surveys in 2014, however, and had found that around 5.7 percent of new mothers admitted to marijuana use at some point during pregnancy in both 2014 and 2015.

According to PRAMS data, 6.8 percent of Colorado women surveyed admitted to using marijuana at some point during their pregnancies in 2020, down from 8.2 percent in 2019 and 7.8 percent in 2016. This percentage was near pre-COVID rates at the national level in 2020 and lower than rates during the pandemic, which were 6.75 percent and 8.14 percent, respectively, according to data from the National Institute on Drug Abuse.

The latest PRAMS report reveals that 6.2 percent of women surveyed admitted to marijuana use at some point during their first three months of pregnancy, down from 7.4 percent in 2019 and 6.3 percent in 2016. Over the last three months of pregnancy, 2.3 percent of women in 2020 said they used marijuana.

Marijuana use after the baby was born also dropped in 2020, from 8.2 percent in 2019 to to 7.6 percent, but remained higher than the 6.8 percent reported in 2016.

Reported marijuana use during the three months before pregnancy dropped from 18.7 percent in 2019 to 18.1 percent in 2020 — but that was almost 3 percentage points higher than in 2016. Marijuana use can make conception more difficult, according to the National Institutes of Health.

Research on the impact of marijuana use while pregnant is mixed, with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reporting that "some research shows" that using marijuana while pregnant can cause health problems in newborns, including low birth weight, as well as potential learning and physical developmental problems, especially if the marijuana is consumed through smoking.

According to a 2016 study conducted by the University of Colorado Anschutz Medical Campus, however, there was no "substantial evidence" that using cannabis while pregnant would result in health issues for a child. But the study did find moderate evidence that cannabis use could lead to decreased growth and lower IQ scores in young children, and also affect their cognitive and academic ability.

No laws ban pregnant women from purchasing or consuming cannabis in Colorado, but all medical and recreational marijuana products must carry warnings of the potential dangers of consumption for pregnant women.
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Thomas Mitchell has written about all things cannabis for Westword since 2014, covering sports, real estate and general news along the way for publications such as the Arizona Republic, Inman and Fox Sports. He's currently the cannabis editor for
Contact: Thomas Mitchell