The Surgeon General issued a very somber advisory to the people of the United States on Thursday: Weed may be legal in a lot of states now, but if you’re pregnant or a kid, you should stay away from it. Sage advice, to be sure.
The advisory is the first to be made this year by Surgeon General Jerome Adams, who took over the position in 2017. The timing might seem odd, given that over 30 states and counting have legalized cannabis for medical and/or recreational use. But it’s weed’s growing popularity that led Adams and his staff to issue the warning.
“While the perceived harm of marijuana is decreasing, the scary truth is that the actual potential for harm is increasing,” Adams said Thursday during a press conference.
Putting it more bluntly, Adams said: “This ain’t your mother’s marijuana.”
On that point, Adams is completely right.
Cannabis and cannabis-based products now contain much more THC, the mind-altering ingredient that makes us stoned, than they did decades ago. Products like edibles are also more commonly used. While edibles aren’t inherently more dangerous, their effects are often delayed, so less knowledgeable users (including New York Times columnists) might consume more than they should, or kids may accidentally ingest them thinking they’re regular candy. These realities have likely led to more emergency room visits related to cannabis use in recent years.
And though casual cannabis use doesn’t seem to have any major lasting negative effects on the general population, the same isn’t necessarily true for chronic, heavy use. Certain groups, like teens, also might be more susceptible to harm because their brains are still developing. And according to the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, women who use cannabis while pregnant might have a higher risk of stillbirth or premature delivery, while their children may have a higher risk of behavioral problems later on.
Of course, it’s worth noting that many health risks that were once (and sometimes still are) attributed to cannabis turned out to be nothing more than misleading propaganda. And some of the evidence tying cannabis to these specific dangers is relatively weak. But if you’re looking to be safe as possible, then yeah, it’s worth keeping your pot habit in check while you’re pregnant or still growing up.