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House bill would mandate warnings on pot products for pregnant women

Detroit Free Press logo Detroit Free Press 9/10/2019 Kathleen Gray, Detroit Free Press

Just weeks after the U.S. Surgeon General issued a warning that pregnant women should stay away from using marijuana, the Michigan House of Representatives overwhelmingly passed a bill that would require such warning labels on marijuana products.

The pair of bills, which passed on votes of 105-4, would require all marijuana sold at medical and recreational marijuana shops and microbusinesses to include a health warning for women who are pregnant, planning to become pregnant, or breastfeeding, as well as require retail outlets to have an informational pamphlet related to marijuana use by minors available in stores, which would include a Poison Control hotline number. 

"There's been some pretty alarming studies to show that it's an unfortunate trend that a lot of women are continuing to use marijuana while they're pregnant," said state Rep. Tom Albert, R-Lowell. "It's just pretty shocking that someone would make that choice. We want to make sure that they have the right information."

According to the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, up to 60% of marijuana users continue to use the substance during pregnancy.

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The warning label would have to say: WARNING: "Use by pregnant or breastfeeding women, or by women planning to become pregnant, may result in fetal injury, preterm birth, low birth weight or developmental problems for the child."

All marijuana products already have to be labeled with the state's identifying symbol — an upside-down green triangle with a marijuana leaf inside — and a warning that the product contains THC. They also have to include warnings against operating heavy machinery and driving, as well as keeping out of reach of children.

The informational pamphlet is especially important in case kids accidentally eat a marijuana-infused edible, such as a gummy or candy bar.

"If a child unfortunately had an edible product, they'd have a number of who to call immediately," Albert said. "There have been plenty of instances of children thinking that a brownie or a piece of candy is a brownie or a piece of candy and it turns out to be a drug and it has very bad hallucinogenic effects on them."

Robin Schneider, executive director of the Michigan Cannabis Industry Association, said during a committee hearing on the bills that medical marijuana businesses already are placing warning labels on products.

"There's a warning that this is for use only by (medical marijuana) patients, kept out of hands of minors and a warning not to drive after using," she said, adding the group is supportive of warning labels on pot products.

In late August, U.S. Surgeon General Jerome Adams issued an advisory saying that THC —  tetrahydrocannabinol, the psychoactive ingredient in marijuana that produces a "high" — can enter the fetal brain through the mother's bloodstream.

“There is a false perception that marijuana is not as harmful as other drugs. I want to be very clear — no amount of marijuana use during pregnancy or adolescence is known to be safe,” Adams said in his advisory.

According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, pregnant women use marijuana more than any other illicit drug. In a national survey, marijuana use in the past month among pregnant women doubled from 3.4% to 7% between 2002 and 2017 and the product has been marketed by marijuana dispensaries as a useful tool to fight morning sickness.

State Rep. Beau LaFave, R-Iron Mountain, was one four House members to vote against the legislation, saying he felt it was a matter of overregulation by the state and that an overabundance of warning labels on products makes those messages less effective.

The bills — HB 4126-4127 — now move to the Senate for consideration. 

Contact Kathleen Gray: 313-223-4430, kgray99@freepress.com or on Twitter @michpoligal.

This article originally appeared on Detroit Free Press: House bill would mandate warnings on pot products for pregnant women

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