Is pot safe when pregnant? Study seeks answer, draws critics

Leslie Siu, r mThe Associated Press
In this Friday, July 26, 2019 photo, Leslie Siu poses for a portrait next to her cannabis products geared toward women on display in Groundswell dispensary in east Denver. Pregnancy started out rough for her. Morning sickness and migraines had her reeling and barely able to function at a demanding New York marketing job, so like rising numbers of U.S. mothers-to-be, she turned to marijuana. “l was finally able to get out from under my work desk,” said Siu, who later started her own pot company and says her daughter, now 4, is thriving. (AP Photo/David Zalubowski)

An increase in U.S. women using pot during pregnancy has prompted new government-funded research aiming to resolve questions about whether it might harm the fetus and lead to brain damage.

One of the studies is at the University of Washington in Seattle. Researchers there are enrolling women who are already using pot early in pregnancy. At 6 months, their babies will have brain scans to be compared with scans of infants whose moms didn't use pot.

For government and university authorities, it's worthy research that takes advantage of a booming trend. But critics contend it is bogus research that endorses drug use and needlessly endangers fetuses.

Ethicists say the dispute shows why studying how drugs affect pregnant women and babies can be so challenging.