Prenatal exposure to tobacco smoke increases risk of sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS). Marijuana is frequently smoked in conjunction with tobacco, and perinatal exposure to marijuana is associated with increased incidence of SIDS. Abnormalities in peripheral arterial chemoreceptor responses during sleep may be operative in infants at risk for SIDS, and nicotine exposure adversely affects peripheral arterial chemoreceptor responses. To determine whether marijuana could potentially affect the activity of peripheral arterial chemoreceptors during early postnatal development, we used in situ hybridization histochemistry to characterize the pattern and level of mRNA expression for cannabinoid type 1 receptor (CB1R) in the carotid body, superior cervical ganglia (SCG), and nodose-petrosal-jugular ganglia (NG-PG-JG) complex in newborn rats. We used immunohistochemistry and light, confocal, and electron microscopy to characterize the pattern of CB1R and tyrosine hydroxylase protein expression. CB1R mRNA expression was intense in the NG-PG-JG complex, low to moderate in the SCG, and sparse in the carotid body. With maturation, CB1R gene expression significantly increased (P < 0.01) in the NG-PG-JG complex. CB1R immunoreactivity was localized to nuclei of ganglion cells in the SCG and NG-PG-JG complex, whereas tyrosine hydroxylase immunoreactivity was localized to the cytoplasm. Exposure to marijuana during early development could potentially modify cardiorespiratory responses via peripheral arterial chemoreceptors. The novel finding of nuclear localization of CB1Rs in peripheral ganglion cells suggests that these receptors may have an, as yet, undetermined role in nuclear signaling in sensory and autonomic neurons.