A Dundee, FL physician, Dr. Robinson-Farah, had his certification to recommend medical marijuana rescinded by the FL Department of Health after it was discovered that he recommended increasing amounts of marijuana to a pregnant woman. During her initial visit, the patient, then 19 weeks pregnant, was given a recommendation for a 70-day supply of marijuana for inhalation (84 mg/day) and oral use (40 mg/day). To put this into perspective, inhaled doses of approximately 5mg and oral doses of 10mg are well above the threshold for intoxication. In other words, this pregnant patient had enough marijuana for over 20 intoxicating doses per day—an amount sufficient for two people to stay intoxicated all day long throughout the 70 day recommendation period. The initial diagnosis used to justify the recommendation was scoliosis-related pain, which is not considered a qualifying condition under FL state guidelines.
Although the patient told Dr. Robinson-Farah that she was not pregnant, he did not think or did not care to have her take a simple pregnancy test. Ruling out pregnancy should have been paramount given the mounting evidence on the harms of prenatal THC exposure and the strong positions taken by the US Surgeon General and the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists against marijuana use during pregnancy. Research shows that pregnant women who smoke marijuana have higher risk of anemia and stillbirth. Infants born to women who used marijuana during pregnancy are more likely to have lower birth weight, suffer tremors, and require placement in neonatal intensive care than infants of mothers who did not use marijuana. Studies have also shown links between prenatal marijuana exposure and impaired higher-order executive functions such as impulse control, visual memory, and attention during school years, all of which can negatively impact exposed infants throughout the lifespan.
Florida law restricts medical marijuana recommendations to pregnant patients to only allow the use of low-THC products. Yet by the time the patient was 7.5 months pregnant, her recommendation had been increased to 90 mg/day for oral use in addition to the 84 mg/day for inhalation. This increase was justified due to the patient complaining of symptoms related to PTSD. By that time one would assume that the patient, being 7.5 months along, would have been noticeably pregnant. Nevertheless, Dr. Robinson-Farah increased her marijuana recommendation even though he had no medical verification for her PTSD symptoms. Is it any wonder then that this patient’s child was later born with respiratory distress and tremors, a known consequence of prenatal THC exposure?
According the National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH), from 2002-2003, approximately 2.1% of pregnant women surveyed in the state of FL reported smoking marijuana in the past 30 days. By 2017-2018, that percentage had risen to 14.6%— an alarming increase of 595%. In a system ripe for abuse, lax governmental oversight coupled with unscrupulous physicians has resulted in skyrocketing rates of marijuana use among pregnant women in FL. This will result in adverse social, health, and economic consequences as deficits related to prenatal THC exposure cascade throughout the lives of the exposed. In order to reverse this catastrophic trend, an uncompromising approach must be adopted consisting of an immediate ban on marijuana recommendations to pregnant patients and a statewide educational campaign on the harms of marijuana use during pregnancy.