Giving medical cannabis to infants is a difficult taboo to shift, but new research is paving the way. The launch of a clinical trial examining the use of CBD in newborns suffering from hypoxic ischemic encephalopathy (brain damage caused by lack of oxygen) means new hope for the million plus babies born each year with this condition. These infants are often left severely disabled, and many die.
“My name is Zoe Sigman, and I’m the Program Director at Project CBD, an educational nonprofit focused on cannabis science & medicine. Ten years ago, we introduced CBD to the medical cannabis community in California. It spread like wildfire and has become the hugely popular phenomenon that it is today.
“What about the children?” is a mantra that has been used to propel prohibition with misplaced fear. Scientists and politicians increasingly warn about the dangers of using cannabis during pregnancy. There’s only one issue: data doesn’t back them up. But a lack of evidence has never stopped the tides of prohibition. Unable to demonstrate that cannabis is actually harmful, public officials nevertheless warn that women are now more likely to report using cannabis during pregnancy (which partly reflects greater comfort talking to doctors, not greater use).
There is little evidence to show a directly harmful effect of cannabis in pregnancy. However, cannabinoids consistently amplify the toxic effects of nicotine and alcohol on the fetus. Preclinical research suggests one possible reason: activating the CB2 receptor with anandamide can decrease the expression of a transporter gene in the placenta. This gene encodes a protein which pumps a variety of chemicals out of the placenta, so its inhibition allows toxins to accumulate. It is also common in cancers where it protects the cancer from chemo.