Marijuana and Pregnancy: the Jamaican Research by Dr. Dreher

Marijuana abuse during pregnancy has become a hot dispute and the topic is still too controversial to keep to one point of view. Even though marijuana abuse during pregnancy is far less dangerous than alcohol, which causes Fetal Alcohol Syndrome in babies, scientists all over the world hesitate to call it harmless. Still, very few studies have been carried out on the matter – it is very hard to find a focus group of women, that would openly admit to using cannabis while pregnant.

The “Jamaica Research”

The Dean of the Department of the Nursing Center for Emergency Medical Aid Melanie Dreher held a special study in Jamaica. The results were published in 1994 in the “Pediatrics” magazine, but now it is gaining relevance again due to the increasing interest in the neuroprotective properties of different substances.

The essence of the study was to monitor the health of women during pregnancy and their babies after a year after birth. The observed group consisted of women who were using cannabis and who were abstaining from it. Contrary to expectations, Dreher found no differences in infant birth weight and the results of neuro-tests. Moreover, infants of women who used cannabis (we are talking about daily smoking during pregnancy), could establish eye contact and generally socialized faster. It was easy to look after them.

The reasons for this phenomenon have still not been established. It is important to notice that there was the myth that smoking cannabis while pregnant leads to lower birth weight according to the results of this study in Jamaica. In the United States within such studies, women also used alcohol and other drugs.

The 30-day test has shown that the children of women who used cannabis were better than the children of non-smoking mothers on two criteria: they have the best organization and modulation of sleep and awakening and are less prone to stress-mediated anxiety. Melanie Dreher’s Research was financed by the “Patients Out of Time” organization. Editors of the «Patients for Medical Cannabis» organization attended the final lecture at Pharmaceutical College of Iowa on the case of medical cannabis, in which Dr. Melanie Dreher presented the results of her research “ganja babies” by phone. (You will get acquainted with her testimony in this article). She spent more than 30 years in Jamaica, engaged in the study of the medicinal properties of “ganja” (called cannabis in Jamaica).


Quotes from Dreher’s speech:

“You know, people ask me all the time whether I think marijuana should be legalized, and I have been of the opinion for a long time that this is much ado about nothing. Compared to tobacco and alcohol, cannabis is such a benign substance. ”

“It does not seem to make a difference in either the productivity of the people in Jamaica… it seems to make no difference in terms of exposure during pregnancy… We looked at these children again at the age of five, both groups of children, and could find absolutely nothing that linked their development to their exposure to cannabis during pregnancy.”

“I …would strongly support the decriminalization of cannabis, and now that we understand about the endocannabinoid system that this is documented, it’s researched… now that we have knowledge of why cannabis is good medicine, something that Jamaicans have known for years, I think it’s time to seriously revise this product, to understand and be able to dispense it as a medicine, legally, and to decriminalize the other uses of marijuana.”

Signs of Birth Defects

The revolutionary study conducted in the 1990s by the medical anthropologist Dr. Dreher (co-author of the book “Women and Cannabis: Medicine, Science, and Sociology”), made the medicine look at the use of cannabis by pregnant women in Jamaica from a new side. Dreher found that cannabis has been used in medical and cultural contexts, in order to relieve morning sickness or nausea, prevent depression and fatigue and improve appetite. A team of researchers under the leadership of Dreher studied not only the mothers but their children and found no congenital abnormalities associated with the exposure to cannabis after a year after the birth.

However, it does not mean that pregnant women can freely use cannabis in large quantities on the regular basis. Rather, it should encourage scientists and the medical communities to improve the research methodology, conduct more cross-cultural studies, as well as get to refrain from hasty allegations that the use of cannabis in any quantities can cause irreparable harm to the mother and fetus.


Melanie Dreher, a registered nurse, Ph.D., and member of the American Academy of Nursing, explains her research on the impact of cannabis on pregnant women in Jamaica. This is the first scientific study of the possible effects of cannabis use on pregnancy and child development. It was held more than twenty years ago. Both smokers and non-smoking women and their children have participated openly.

Prenatal Marijuana Exposure and Neonatal Outcomes in Jamaica: An Ethnographic Study.

«Although no positive or negative neurobehavioral effects of prenatal exposure were found at 3 days of life using the Brazelton examination, there were significant differences between the exposed and non-exposed neonates by the end of the first month».

Comparing the two groups, the researchers observed that mothers with babies who used marijuana during pregnancy exhibit greater physiological stability. Physicians require less effort to bring them to a state of readiness for social stimulation.

In the future, the results of comparing the infants of smoking and non-smoking mothers were even more striking … Infants under the age of 30 days from the mothers who took cannabis in large quantities, were more socially responsive and autonomously stable.

  • They showed the best ability to concentrate;
  • Their motor and the autonomic system seemed to be more reliable;
  • They were less irritable;
  • They rarely observed the imbalance of tone;
  • Doctors required less effort to lead to a state of self-discipline;
  • They demonstrated better self-regulation;
  • Assessed as a positive-minded to the teachers.

However, this article does not encourage pregnant women to smoke marijuana daily. The Jamaican women seem to tolerate it better. The research should be carried out in different groups and nationalities to obtain more exact results. Please, study the source carefully to make your own conclusion on the matter.