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A cannabis plant is shown in the cloning greenhouse on Thursday, January 18, 2018, at The Hollingsworth Cannabis Company in Mason County.
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A cannabis plant is shown in the cloning greenhouse on Thursday, January 18, 2018, at The Hollingsworth Cannabis Company in Mason County.
Credit: KUOW Photo/Megan Farmer

Critics question ethics of study on marijuana during pregnancy

The University of Washington is reevaluating the ethics of an upcoming study of the effects of marijuana on unborn babies.

The UW Medicine researchers say the study is the first that looks at babies whose mothers used marijuana during pregnancy, but no illicit drugs, alcohol or tobacco.

Child health advocate Pamela McColl said a lot is already known about the effects of pot on fetal health. She worries women in the study aren’t giving informed consent.

“They really don't know the risks established by science of the use of marijuana in pregnancy,” she said.

McColl is part of a citizens’ group that’s asked the university to reconsider the ethics of the study.

Karen Moe, head of the UW’s human subjects division, said the Institutional Review Board takes such concerns seriously and is investigating. Moe said the board may have a decision on the study this week.

Moe said she’s not sure the critics realized that the study does not provide, prescribe or pay for marijuana, and doesn’t require or encourage its use.

“The women who are using cannabis are women who've made a personal choice prior to enrolling in the study to use marijuana," Moe said.

She said they will require a revision to the consent form making it clear that pregnant women in the study do not have to use pot.