The message couldn’t be clearer.

  • Smoking during pregnancy puts mother’s and baby’s life at risk.
  • If all pregnant women stopped smoking, there would be an estimated 10% reduction in infant deaths.
  • Complications of smoking during pregnancy include ectopic pregnancy, placenta previa, and placental abruption.
  • Smoking increases the risk of stillbirth, miscarriage, and severe vaginal bleeding.

Yet, somebody in The Vancouver Compassion Society thought it was a good idea to conduct a study of marijuana smoking to treat morning sickness.

The stated goal of this organization — their “raison d’tre” — is to provide cannabis to its members and do research on cannabis.

What do we learn when all of the study participants are already regular users of cannabis to treat symptoms such as nausea, vomiting, lack of appetite, pain, insomnia, anxiety, depression, and fatigue?

Surprisingly enough, we learn that out of 84 survey respondents, 18 (22%) of them did not rate cannabis as “extremely effective” or “effective” to treat nausea. More interesting, 42 (49%) of them did not rate cannabis as “extremely effective” or “effective” to treat vomiting.

One technical comment: The article differs in the reported response rates. The authors put a positive spin on the data by basing their reported results on the percent of patient who answered a specific question. I submit that the data assessment should be based on the number of patients who returned the questionnaire. This is closer to the “intent-to-treat” group response — a more widely accepted approach to data analysis.

Considering the known risks of smoking during pregnancy, what did the consent form look like? Did it include any of the risks listed above? Actually, there is no evidence in the article that informed consent was obtained. Does Canada not require informed consent? Does Canada not use Investigational Review Boards? Where were the journal reviewers? Where was the journal editor?

I know what you are thinking. Marijuana is not like smoking cigarettes. My answer: marijuana is smoking. We know smoking is not good for the fetus.

I suggest that before using it on pregnant women and fetuses, the Vancouver Compassion Society should do some research to prove what they are dispensing is safe.

7/8/06 20:01 JR

Hi, I’m JR

John Russo, Jr., PharmD, is president of The MedCom Resource, Inc. Previously, he was senior vice president of medical communications at, a complementary and alternative medicine website.