Pregnancy and Cannabis: Dr. Melanie Dreher

Dr. Melanie Dreher, Dean of Nursing

Rush University Medical Center
Chicago, Illinois

(3:53 min)
«In addition to looking at work productivity, I looked at the value of cannabis, or ganja, in the lives of these men: the social value of it, the ritual value in terms of its use as sacrament in Rastafarianism… I also was able to look at the medicinal value that it had, in terms of teas and tonics and poultices, and other preparations that really were applied to a variety of medical circumstances. In Jamaica, they call marihuana the King of Herbs. It truly is a master herb and it’s used for many, many things. Everything, from babies teething —to reduce some of the pain and inflammation that occurs during teething— to asma, gastrointestinal complaints, getting better sleep… just, a variety of medicinal uses.

So that lead me to the next study which was, looking at school children whose parents administered tea, marihuana or ganja tea, to their children, prophylactically, a couple times a week; not in response to any serious illness, but to help the children concentrate more in school and to promote their health, and to keep them well, robust —good, sturdy, strident children. And, unlike here, where parents who give their children marihuana are considered bad parents, in Jamaica, it’s just the opposite. They are considered very good parents… They have taken that precious store of ganja and, instead of smoking it themselves, they have used it to prepare teas and tonics for their children to protect and promote their health and improve their intellectual performance in school.»

(7:20 min)
«Well, I think that one of the reasons that we were able to do that study in Jamaica —to look at women who use cannabis during pregnancy and then follow-up on their infants later—, was because Jamaica was one of the few places where you could actually separate cannabis from other drug use. In the United States, many of the women who smoked cannabis were also cigarette smokers, alcohol drinkers; used other substances… Whereas, in Jamaica, it was a pretty clean sample.»

(8:58 min)
«The children who were the marihuana consumers, or the ganja consumers —tea drinkers—, did consistently better in school than the children who were not consumers.

We had asked the teachers to rate the children ahead of time and say, Which children do you think get ganja tea? and, Which children do you think get no tea? And, of course, the teachers are from the middle class of Jamaica, and they were very consistent in their notion that the best children in the class were obviously the ones who didn’t drink marihuana tea.

So they were really surprised to know that, in fact, those were the children who did get the tea.

I am not sure whether the tea itself had any impact —and I think we could do the study again and really find out whether that was the case—, but they were certainly also, the mothers and fathers who… If they cared enough about their children to give them ganja tea, they also cared enough about them to make sure they had clean school uniforms, pencils and paper to write on, little books to read at home, that they did their lessons at home. So, it was really… The ganja tea was an artifact of good parenting. And so, it would be really hard to separate out what was the good parenting part and what was the specific effect of ganja tea.»

(12:29 min)
«The neonatal study was very interesting because at 1 day and 3 days there were absolutely no differences between these two categories of neonates: the exposed and the non-exposed. By one month —and, of course, the mothers continued to breast feed; all the mothers breast fed—, by one month, the exposed children did significantly better on all of the variables —indicators— in the Brazelton Neonatal Assessment Scale, which is the scale we use to measure; it’s a common scale used at neonatal neurobehavioral development.

We are —again— not convinced that, that amazing finding —again, counterintuitive finding— was a result, specifically, of the cannabis itself. Those mothers who were heavy users of cannabis were also mothers who lived a different lifestyle than most women in Jamaica. And, we do believe that there were aspects of that lifestyle that provided additional protection and attention for neonates; that created a better neonatal development environment for those children. So, we would attribute it to the cannabis only tangentially.»

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