According to new research published on May 7 in the Obstetrics & Gynecology journal, over two-thirds of Colorado cannabis dispensaries recommend that pregnant women use cannabis products to treat nausea symptoms during the first trimester of pregnancy.
Betsy Dickson, a doctor at the University of Colorado, along with another researcher, asked an anonymous caller to contact marijuana dispensaries across the state and ask for advice regarding cannabis use during pregnancy.
Out of 400 Colorado dispensaries contacted by the researchers, 37 percent were licensed for medical sales only, 27 percent for just retail recreational sales, and 35 percent for both medical and recreational use.
A whopping 69 percent of all dispensaries contacted recommended the use of cannabis as a means to treat morning sickness. However, the recommendations for cannabis products varied by license type. While 83 percent of medical dispensaries recommended cannabis products, only 60 percent of recreational retail dispensaries did the same.
Researchers found, however, that 32 percent of dispensary employees recommended that the caller discuss cannabis use with a health care provider.
"I was really surprised," said study author Dr. Torri Metz, a high-risk obstetrician at Denver Health in Colorado, as reported by CNN. "I did not expect dispensaries to be recommending cannabis products to pregnant women."
"Women are hesitant to disclose any kind of drug use in pregnancy to their health care providers for fear of potential legal ramifications or involvement by social services," she pointed out.
According to Dr. Katrina Mark, an OB-GYN not involved in the research, the term "medical dispensary" is a "misnomer."
"They are only licensed to dispense to people who have medical marijuana cards," said Mark, an assistant professor in the University of Maryland School of Medicine's Department of Obstetrics, Gynecology and Reproductive Sciences, cited by CNN.
Mark observed that employees at marijuana dispensaries are just that: employees, not medical professionals, and advice from a retail salesperson is not the same as talking with a doctor.
"This does not mean that they are staffed by people that have any sort of medical education," Mark noted.