Consequences of Perinatal Cannabis Exposure

Trends Neurosci. 2019 Dec;42(12):871-884. doi: 10.1016/j.tins.2019.08.010. Epub 2019 Oct 8.


Cannabis exposure during the perinatal period results in varied and significant consequences in affected offspring. The prevalence of detrimental outcomes of perinatal cannabis exposure is likely to increase in tandem with the broadening of legalization and acceptance of the drug. As such, it is crucial to highlight the immediate and protracted consequences of cannabis exposure on pre- and postnatal development. Here, we identify lasting changes in neurons' learning flexibility (synaptic plasticity) and epigenetic misregulation in animal models of perinatal cannabinoid exposure (using synthetic cannabinoids or active components of the cannabis plant), in addition to significant alterations in social behavior and executive functions. These findings are supported by epidemiological data indicating similar behavioral outcomes throughout life in human offspring exposed to cannabis during pregnancy. Further, we indicate important lingering questions regarding accurate modeling of perinatal cannabis exposure as well as the need for sex- and age-dependent outcome measures in future studies.

Keywords: cannabis; perinatal.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Behavior, Animal / drug effects
  • Brain / drug effects*
  • Brain / physiology
  • Cannabis / adverse effects*
  • Endocannabinoids / physiology
  • Epigenesis, Genetic / drug effects
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Neuronal Plasticity / drug effects
  • Neurons / drug effects*
  • Neurons / physiology
  • Pregnancy
  • Prenatal Injuries / chemically induced*
  • Social Behavior


  • Endocannabinoids