Objective: To characterize recommendations given to pregnant women by Colorado cannabis dispensaries regarding use of cannabis products for nausea during the first trimester of pregnancy.
Methods: This was a statewide cross-sectional study in which advice about cannabis product use was requested using a mystery caller approach. The caller stated she was 8 weeks pregnant and experiencing morning sickness. Dispensaries were randomly selected from the Colorado Department of Revenue Enforcement Division website. The primary outcome was the proportion of marijuana dispensaries that recommended a cannabis product for use during pregnancy. We hypothesized that 50% of dispensaries would recommend use. A sample size of 400 was targeted to yield a two-sided 95% CI width of 10%. Secondary outcomes included the proportion endorsing cannabis use as safe during pregnancy, specific product recommendations, and encouraging discussion with a health care provider. Recommendations were compared by licensure type (medical, retail, or both) and location (rural vs urban).
Results: Of the 400 dispensaries contacted, 37% were licensed for medical sale (n=148), 28% for retail (n=111), and 35% for both (n=141). The majority, 69% (277/400), recommended treatment of morning sickness with cannabis products (95% CI 64-74%). Frequency of recommendations differed by license type (medical 83.1%, retail 60.4%, both 61.7%, P<.001). Recommendations for use were similar for dispensary location (urban 71% vs nonurban 63%, P=.18). The majority (65%) based their recommendation for use in pregnancy on personal opinion and 36% stated cannabis use is safe in pregnancy. Ultimately, 81.5% of dispensaries recommended discussion with a health care provider; however, only 31.8% made this recommendation without prompting.
Conclusion: Nearly 70% of Colorado cannabis dispensaries contacted recommended cannabis products to treat nausea in the first trimester. Few dispensaries encouraged discussion with a health care provider without prompting. As cannabis legalization expands, policy and education efforts should involve dispensaries.