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Doctor Prescribes Pot to Pregnant Woman, May Lose License

By Rebecca Odes |

dispensaryColorado is one of the 15 U.S states with active medical marijuana programs.  According to Colorado state law, a patient can approach a doctor with a range of diseases or symptoms and be given a prescription for medical marijuana. Such was the routine plan when an unidentified 20-year-old woman walked into a Denver marijuana dispensary, spoke with Dr. Manuel De Jesus Aquino and walked out with a marijuana scrip. Apparently the doctor did not notice that the woman was 28 weeks pregnant.

The doctor reportedly did not examine the woman or ask her any questions about her medical history. She was given no instructions on follow-up care, which is important as these follow-up instructions specifically indicate that medical marijuana should not be used during pregnancy.

When the baby seemed lethargic at birth, somebody decided he should be tested for drugs. How could they tell normal lethargy from abnormal lethargy? A good number of babies are lethargic after birth, which is attributed to the drugs given to women to help manage labor pain.  Maybe the mom was acting stoned herself? Who knows? The baby tested positive, and the mom told them she’d been given the go-ahead for drug use by the good possibly-soon-to-be-ex-Doctor Aquino, and that he’d never asked her whether she was pregnant.

(The woman apparently didn’t mention it either, but for some reason nobody seems especially concerned about this.)

Dr. Aquino may become the first Colorado doctor to lose his license due to marijuana prescription negligence. Reactions have ranged from outrage to defense. There’s a growing body of medical professionals and other respected members of society who see marijuana as a relatively harmless drug — in general. But considering its history, associations, and the lack of extensive formal studies, it’s not likely that too many people would champion the use of this drug in pregnancy, especially when it’s not altogether clear what the drug was being prescribed FOR. Some women do use marijuana as a drug during pregnancy, most often to cope with severe morning sickness,  but if there’s a doctor or midwife involved, chances are good that she’s not going down on paper as endorsing this treatment.

No, this seems like a case of mistaken identity. It calls attention to the dispensary environment, and the question of whether the attention doctors give prospective patients in this setting is reasonable. But it also calls attention to the kind of rushed, impersonal interaction that has become the unfortunate norm between doctors and patients in medical offices.  How could a doctor not notice a woman was pregnant at seven months? I guess it’s possible that she could have been very small, or very large (in general). But it’s also possible that the doctor didn’t even look up.

photo: Katherine Hitt/flickr

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About Rebecca Odes


Rebecca Odes

Rebecca Odes is a writer, artist and mother. She was inspired to write her blog, From The Hips, during her first pregnancy when she discovered every pregnancy book she came across made her feel anxious or irritated. She lives in New York City with her husband and two children.

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0 thoughts on “Doctor Prescribes Pot to Pregnant Woman, May Lose License

  1. MMAPR says:

    It’s reasons like this that there needs to be set standards and practices in prescribing medical marijuana. The practice of simply evaluating for medical marijuana with no follow up or standards is unethical and a disservice to our community.

    In response to this, community activists from MMAPR and physicians are meeting in Denver on January 4th, 2011 to discuss the formulation of the Medical Marijuana Doctors Association. The associations mission is to form physician standards and practices when evaluating patients for medical marijuana.

    For more information, please contact Vincent at 303-386-4001 or email

    The Medical Marijuana Assistance Program of the Rockies (MMAPR) is the nations first traditional medicine preferred provider organization focused on helping indigent patients. MMAPR mission is to make traditional medicine accessible and affordable for those in need.

    For more information, visit us online at

  2. Health Developers says:

    Shocking that the doctor did not notice a women of 28 weeks pregnancy and prescribed her medical marijuana. History collection is the first step in medical treatment, and this doctor has failed in his first step of treatment itself.
    If pregnant women use marijuana to cope with morning sickness, why should she use it at 28 weeks when no such symptoms are present? she should be a regular drug user then.
    Anyways negligence lies at the side of both the parties, with the doctor being more liable for medical negligence.

  3. Jeannie Herer says:

    Pediatrics, February 1994, Volume 93, Number 2, pp. 254-260

    American Academy of Pediatrics

    Comparing the heavily exposed and the non-exposed infants, the Brazelton clusters on day 30, showed that the offspring of heavy-marijuana using mothers had significantly higher scores on:

    - the Orientation cluster

    - the Autonomic Stability cluster

    - reflexes

    - habituation to auditory and tactile stimuli, and to animate auditory stimuli

    - higher degree of alertness

    - capacity for consolability

    - less irritability

    - had fewer startles and tremors

    - better physiological stability at one month

    - required less examiner facilitation to reach an organized state

    - more socially responsive

    - the quality of their alertness was higher

    - their motor and autonomic systems were more robust

    - they had better self-regulation

    - they were more rewarding for caregivers than the neonates of non–using mothers at one month of age

    From the Schools of Nursing, Education and Public Health, the University of Massachusetts, Amherst. Received for publication Sep. 21, 1992; accepted June 30, 1993.

  4. jsknow says:

    This is just more reefer madness scare tactics! Pregnant women and nursing mothers have been using marijuana for thousands of years. If marijuana was causing any serious problems it would have shown up long ago!

    This is a great example of the information the drug war prohibitionists suppress every way they can. If babies are getting natural cannabis like substances in mother’s breast milk, do you still believe marijuana is harmful at any age?
    Cannabis Reduces Infant Mortality:

  5. Rebecca says:

    Interesting info, thanks for sharing!

  6. AD says:

    Well a real OB with a successful practice told my bestie she could go ahead and smoke in moderation to relieve anxiety, depression, high blood pressure, mood swings, loss of appetite and nausea/vomiting during her pregnancy. She delivered a perfectly healthy 11 lb. 23 in. baby. She’s one of 15 women I’ve spoken to who had the same experience. Maybe more research should really be done since many prescription drugs for the same symptoms have been shown to cause problems with fetal development and/or prove to be ineffective. For the record, I am 27 weeks pregnant, barely showing, and still violently puking. Finnergan, Zofran, Emetrol, gingerale, crackers, small frequent meals, antacids= completely non-effective. If it weren’t for marijuana I’d have miscarried due to malnutrition or at least ended up on IV’s and bed rest by now. It’s not a drug, it’s a plant. It grows like that. If you should so happen to set it on fire, there are some effects: Hungry, Happy, Sleepy. We should stop wasting time and resources prosecuting, jailing and generally harassing users and growers.

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