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There are a myriad of benefits, according to medical cannabis and legalization advocates, of smoking, or otherwise ingesting the plant. It’s also a popular recreational drug that is considered safer than alcohol, and more acceptable than other street drugs such as heroin and cocaine, and even many prescription medications. As cannabis becomes more mainstream, however, concerns have been raised over cannabis smoking around children. While there is still much more to be learned, researchers and doctors warn: Don’t smoke cannabis around children and babies. They cite potential development issues for unborn babies, health issues, behavioral and learning problems as the basis for their recommendations.

Research and Studies

A very small study in Colorado involving 43 children between the ages of 1 month and 2 years reported that 16% had been exposed to cannabis smoke. This was discovered with the use of urine testing and supported by interviews with parents and caregivers. Other researchers claim that THC exposure early in child’s life may have a negative impact on brain development. However, there are other factors that also come into play, such as nutrition, environment and exposure to other substances. Therefore, more research is needed to definitively determine how second-hand cannabis smoke affects children. Is also unknown what effects prenatal cannabis smoking has on an unborn child.

Prenatal Exposure

Everything that an expecting mother ingests, inhales, or otherwise puts into her body while pregnant is shared with her unborn child. Pregnant women are discouraged from smoking, drinking alcohol and eating fish in large quantities because these things can cause birth defects, low birth-rates and even miscarriage. According to some researchers, cannabis use during pregnancy actually changes the way that the unborn child’s brain develops, specifically, there is a cortical thickening. However, researchers are unsure as to exactly how this impacts the child, however, it is believed to cause issues with attention, learning and contributes to behavioral problems.

Attention & Learning

While other factors are certainly worth looking at such as, the classroom environment, the child’s home life, nutrition and general health, exposure to cannabis smoke for young children seems to have a negative impact. As well as having difficulty with attention, children exposed to cannabis smoke at an early age may also prone to learning disabilities, such as memory problems. This presents itself as a significant issue in classrooms that are often based on memorizing facts, figures, dates and rules. What’s more, these children sometimes either lack, or have under-developed, problem-solving skills. This often leads to poor performance in school and difficulty making important decisions.

Behavioral Problems

One significant concern with very little research to confirm is that exposure to cannabis smoke creates behavioral issues in children. Some researchers claim that newborn babies of smokers are prone to trembling, shrill cries and that they react differently to visual stimuli than babies born to non-cannabis smokers. What’s more, these children often exhibit behavior issues both at home and in the classroom. Some studies have even shown an increase in aggression associated with children who were exposed to cannabis before birth. It seems that even low dose exposures produce changes in behavior in some children, however, this is not always the case and more investigation into the matter is warranted.

While there are no solid answers as to how second-hand cannabis smoke, or prenatal exposure to cannabis, affect a child, it’s wise to err on the side of caution. Pregnant women are urged to eliminate alcohol, tobacco, cannabis, and any substance that has the potential to cause their unborn child harm. What’s more, parents and caregivers should simply find a child-free place to smoke cannabis, and should always keep their supply out of the reach of children.

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