Stuff To Know

Marijuana During Pregnancy and Breastfeeding

Consequences for Families

This is a guest post from Elephant Circle, a consumer-based, reproductive justice organization dedicated to circling around parents and families with innovation, support and resources.


Each Colorado family that uses legal marijuana must understand and manage the information available for their own family in terms of both physical and legal risks, especially during pregnancy and while breastfeeding.

Despite the fact that the use of medical marijuana became legal in Colorado in 2007 and recreational use became legal in 2012 there is a provision of the Children’s Code (19-3-102) that defines abuse in ten different ways, including when a child’s “environment is injurious” to their welfare or if they test positive at birth for a schedule I or II controlled substance. Marijuana is still listed in schedule I (18-18-203) and this statute is being used to make findings of abuse/neglect. Another area of the law where marijuana use can impact families is divorce and custody. The standard in these cases is “the best interest of the child” which includes a dozen different factors and judges in these cases have discretion to order drug tests and supervised parenting time if one party makes drug use an issue.

It is possible to reduce the chance that marijuana use will negatively impact your family, even if you have been “flagged” for prenatal THC. Being armed with knowledge about your legal rights and the scientific data can empower you to make decisions in the best interest of your family.

Marijuana During Pregnancy

There has been a lot of research into the health risks of marijuana use while pregnant – researchers in the U.S. and Canada have been investigating the effects of the marijuana use during pregnancy on babies, children and teenagers for over 30 years. This large amount of data showed that there are few negative health effects for parents or babies and there is  consensus that both short-term and long-term effects of prenatal cannabis use are inconsistent, difficult to detect, and open to interpretation.  Despite the lack of a clear link between marijuana use and risk for parents or babies, some Coloradans find that admitting to prenatal cannabis use evokes a judgmental response from their Ob or midwife.

While providers are not required to test newborns for THC they often prefer to be “on the safe side” and let the Department of Human Services determine what is or isn’t abuse by testing and reporting evidence of prenatal exposure. This triggers the involvement of the agency which can be very traumatizing to the family, even when they find that there was no abuse afterall. The Department has a lot of discretion to determine what equals an injurious environment and what to do about it. The agency can investigate, require drug tests, require treatment, and foster care, and can ultimately remove a child from their home.

Marijuana While Breastfeeding/Parenting

Though there is very little research on the health risks of marijuana use during breastfeeding, many pediatricians and lactation professionals tell clients that marijuana use is incompatible with  breastfeeding and parenting. But there is a difference between what we know, what we think we know, and what we believe. This disconnect between scientific research and health care practice can be confusing to families.

The Clearing The Smoke Webinar

Denver Natural Mom is proud to announce a collaborative webinar with Elephant Circle for a deep dive into this issue and to spread knowledge where there is much misinformation.

Purchase the webinar recording for $14

This webinar will arm families with the information they need to understand and navigate the health and legal risks of marijuana use in Colorado.

The $14 fee to access the recorded webinar goes to support Elephant Circle and their work.


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