Surgeon general advises pregnant people, youth against marijuana use

Jerome Adams

Surgeon General Jerome Adams’ advisory was the first his office issued on marijuana since 1982, and it comes as more states legalize the drug for recreational or medical use. | Steven Senne, File/AP Photo

The surgeon general Thursday issued an advisory cautioning young people and pregnant people against using marijuana, warning it poses risks to developing brains.

HHS officials said the best science available suggests no amount of marijuana use during pregnancy or for youth is known to be safe. Surgeon General Jerome Adams’ advisory was the first his office issued on marijuana since 1982, and it comes as more states legalize the drug for recreational or medical use.

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“We need to be clear: Some states’ laws on marijuana may have changed, but the science has not and federal law has not,” HHS Secretary Alex Azar said.

In 2017, about 9.2 million people ages 12 to 25 reported that they used marijuana in the last month, according to HHS. High school students’ perception of marijuana as harmful has been declining over the past decade, the department has found.

Cannabis use in pregnant people more than doubled in the past 15 years, from 3.4 percent to 7 percent, and use is more common during the first trimester, according to data collected from the National Survey on Drug Use and Health.

Federal scientists who conducted the study said cannabis use during pregnancy has been associated with effects on fetal growth, such as low birth weight, and may be more likely for people using marijuana often during pregnancy, particularly in the first and second trimesters. They said in the study that more research is needed, however.

Azar said HHS is “committed” to more research “because one of the dangers is that we still don’t know all of the risks.” HHS has had conversations with the DOJ and DEA on how to increase the amount of research, he said.

HHS is also launching a public awareness digital campaign with $100,000 President Donald Trump donated from his salary, department officials said.