Limited available research on maternal marijuana use has prompted many health organizations to discourage moms from using cannabis. (Thinkstock/Getty Images)

Nevada readies PSA telling pregnant women not to consume weed

LAS VEGAS — The state of Nevada is preparing a public information campaign to address the use of marijuana by pregnant women and highlight the potential harm the drug can do to a fetus.

Public service TV and radio advertisements will be airing in December in response to research that shows more pregnant woman are using pot, the Las Vegas Review-Journal reported.

A federal study last year found that marijuana use by pregnant women in the U.S. increased from 2.4 percent in 2002 to 3.9 percent in 2014.

In 2015, before Nevada legalized marijuana for adult use, self-reported data from women indicated that 5.5 percent used the drug during pregnancy.

Dr. John DiMuro, Nevada’s chief health officer, said more recent reports from hospitals suggest more expectant mothers are using marijuana.

In Colorado, where marijuana was legalized in 2014, one Pueblo hospital reported the number of babies born with the chemical effects of marijuana in their systems doubled in two years. Dr. Larry Wolk, executive director and chief medical officer of the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment, called the report anecdotal, but noted that the state’s most recent official survey found 6 percent of pregnant women were using marijuana.

Research on the effects of marijuana use during pregnancy, however, is scarce.

While it is well-documented that the developing brains of teens can be altered through regular use of marijuana, far fewer studies have been done on the long-term impact of exposure in the womb.

Research done in Pittsburgh and published in 2000 in the peer-reviewed Neurotoxicology and Teratology journal found that 6-year-olds born to a mother who had smoked one joint or more daily in the first trimester displayed less ability to comprehend concepts in reading and listening — and by age 10 they had lower reading, math and spelling scores than their peers.

It also found that children exposed to marijuana’s major psychoactive element — tetrahydrocannabinol, or THC — in the womb were more impulsive and less able to focus their attention than other 10-year-olds.

Several other studies also have found changes in the brains of fetuses 18 to 22 weeks old linked to maternal marijuana use.

Information from: Las Vegas Review-Journal