Paul Cameron
Pot harms babies?
By Paul Cameron
January 9, 2024

Made famous by Friends, Matthew Perry claimed to be ‘drug-free’ after 15 rehabs. Alas, he died at age 54 from a mixture of ketamine and other drugs. Perry was another famous ‘ex-drug user’ to die – partially at least – of a breakthrough drug touted to ‘solve’ addiction problems.

Undaunted by the many addicted to cannabis, MDs and academics are raving about pot, psilocybin, and other mind-altering substances as cures for innumerable ailments – even toothaches! The popularity of marijuana is surging as it gets ever more spectacular press. Most say they think it is a harmless or a near-harmless medicine which can also be fun (Gallup says 70% support its legalization). Visitors to NYC now note the smell of pot nearly everywhere. And psilocybin (the ‘magic’ in magic mushrooms) is getting legitimated as basically harmless as well.

Table 1 summarizes recent votes on mind-altering substances. Since 2019, majorities of voters ‘just knew’ that many mind-altering substances were benign (or at least wanted the right to try them). Detroit and the District of Columbia, with 79% and 88% Black residents, registered the highest rates of psilocybin approval. These votes jibe with Pew’s 2022 finding that Blacks were more frequently in favor of pot legalization. Conservative Ohio’s 57% vote for legalization of marijuana in 2023 has all but ended political opposition to it at the federal level.

Science to the rescue? A US government survey of 9,257 first-time mothers’ births just tested marijuana’s effects. The investigators noted that ‘pregnant women often lied about cannabis use, indeed used cannabis two to three times more frequently than they admitted it.’ To control for lying, investigators tested the mothers’ urine – a considerable expense compared to just taking respondents at their word. Followed from June 2020 through April 2023, 6.6% of this representative sample of first-time mothers used pot during pregnancy.

Table 2 summarizes some key findings. Not every measurement was taken of every mother, so the n in cells varies. In the first row, there were 9 stillborn of the 611 births to mothers who used pot and 42 stillborn of the 8646 births to mothers who did not use pot. Thus, 17.6% of the 51 mothers of stillborn children used pot. On row 5, 48 of the married used pot, and 5539 did not, thus 0.86% of the married used it. Currently, 1 of every 200 US births is stillborn [in 1930 it was ~1/30; in 1960 ~1/45]. Pot users had thrice the chance of a stillborn and about double the chance of the baby being born unusually small or preterm – both of which are associated with current and future maladies. More mothers who used experienced hypertensive disorders. A dose effect was suggested as the effects of cannabis were marginal if used only during the first trimester, but clear for the two-thirds of pot users who used it during the whole pregnancy.

Mental health: 15.5% of mothers who tested as most stressed and 31.9% of those who tested as most anxious used it. Whether the pot or poorer mental health came first is uncertain. Numerous studies have associated criminality, multiple drug use, and schizophrenia with pot use.

Health problems among babies are an objective signal that something biological is going on. Babies have no social/psychological investment in using pot. As compared to non-users in row 1, perhaps 6 additional babies of cannabis users were stillborn and perhaps twice as many suffered adverse outcomes – perhaps an ‘extra’ 78 babies in row 3. There is no way to tell what proportion of these extra adversities were due to cannabis, per se. However, these results bar any reasonable person from touting cannabis as harmless and lend credence to those who consider it dangerous. Since cannabis was associated with varying levels of biological harm among babies, requiring exceptionally strong proof of its efficacy to treat a medical condition is reasonable. Certainly not the current set of small studies based on dozens or scores of patients.

60% of the mothers in the study – as with the nation as a whole – were married.

It is generally believed you shouldn’t use possibly harmful substances when you’re pregnant (hence mothers lying about having consumed cannabis). Reinforcing the traditional belief that ‘births should occur in marriage’ – less than 1% of married mothers used marijuana! Indeed, being unmarried was associated with 17 times the rate of pot use. This finding reinforces the traditional stance that society should discourage single motherhood.

16.4% of mothers on welfare v 2.8% of those with private insurance used cannabis. Those whose medical expenses society is paying were six times more apt to use a drug associated with more stillbirths and children born in a weakened state. This a tragedy for the pot-using mothers and their children, and also adds further costs to society. A Colorado website brags that a $150 ounce of marijuana can be used to make $1.35 joints resulting in highs comparable to consuming $10 of alcohol. Welfare recipients buy pot, and society pays even more because of it.

This study bears on the woke claim that ‘racism causes Blacks to have twice the rate of stillbirths.’ Racism is a pillar of the woke movement, supported by Harvard as well as other prestigious institutions. Thus, “over the last 40 years, we have reduced certain risk factors for stillbirth, such as smoking and alcohol use before and during pregnancy, but these gains have been countered by substantial increases in other risk factors, like obesity and structural racism” – C. Ananth, Ph.D., Prof Epidemiology in the Department of Obstetrics at Rutgers Medical School [].

The authors of this Journal of the American Medical Association article knew they had data bearing on this and similar woke claims, but did not report cross-sorts of race, marriage, welfare use, etc.) so Ananth’s claims could be tested. But look what they did document:

  • 19% of Black mothers used cannabis. This is triple the 5.7% of Hispanics and quadruple the 3.9% rate of Whites.

  • cannabis use was associated with three times the rate of stillborn and about double the rate of injured or weakened babies. And

  • cannabis seemed to interfere with the workings of the placenta in another report of this study [doi:10.1001/jama.2023.21146}

This large study suggests that a fifth of Black mothers use cannabis – a voluntary activity that harms both mothers and babies. Additionally, ~70% of Blacks give birth without being married. These two factors may account for much of the racial divide in stillbirths. Instead of ‘structural racism’ as per Dr. Ananth, much of the racial differences in stillbirth could be due to choices made by the mothers. Yes, as Ananth claimed, there has been an increase in obesity, and 9.5% of the obese in this study used cannabis (v 5.7% of the non-obese). But pot use is often associated with weight gain because it causes the user to get ‘the hungries’ and makes food taste better. Increasing marijuana use may be adding to the obesity surge.

Cannabis for ‘medical use’ started in 1996 and has spread to most states. Gays in the medical establishment helped start the ‘mutilation for gender dysphoria’ business. Pot users and addicts in the same establishment help fuel the current push for cannabis and other mind-altering drugs. Grants are being given, and new academic departments are being created. New journals are churning out results suggesting that cannabis, psilocybin, and other mind-altering drugs – often the very same ones made illegal by our predecessors – cure an ever-expanding list of medical conditions. Even if a study is ‘done correctly,’ with enough studies some will document what appear to be outstanding results. The media gets attention by questioning ‘what is believed’ and readily features these apparent successes. Administering these drugs legally is lucrative: ketamine administrations in Los Angeles run ~$1500. Since some users of these drugs become addicted, treating them to quit creates even more financial opportunities. What could go wrong?

It may turn out that some conditions respond to cannabis. But it seems almost certain that some children died and other kids suffered because of their mother’s cannabis use. This large study, with findings unbiased by the social and psychological investments of cannabis users, should count heavily as we weigh the claims of [once illegal] drug enthusiasts.

© Paul Cameron


The views expressed by RenewAmerica columnists are their own and do not necessarily reflect the position of RenewAmerica or its affiliates.
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Paul Cameron

Dr. Paul Cameron was the first scientist to document the harmful health effects of second-hand tobacco smoke. He has published extensively on LGBT issues in refereed scientific journals. In 1978 he predicted that equal treatment of homosexuality and heterosexuality would strongly favor growing homosexuality and shrinking heterosexuality. His prediction is coming true.


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