Cannabis-based medicines are being distributed to pregnant mothers in the US, despite evidence that the drug harms babies.
In an undercover investigation by the University of Colorado, women pretending to be suffering from morning sickness were encouraged to take cannabis.
Critics have said that medicinal cannabis could be as dangerous as thalidomide for the unborn.
Researchers contacted cannabis dispensaries around the US. In two-thirds of cases, cannabis products were recommended for morning sickness.
Many attempted to sell the would-be mothers a version of cannabis containing THC, the chemical that gives users a ‘high’.
A number of women were advised that they should keep it a secret from their doctors and one was told that something “going through your digestional tract” will have “no effect” on the unborn life.
Cannabis use has been linked to birth defects including gastroschisis, where the intestines develop outside the body, congenial heart conditions, and anencephaly, a condition where a large part of the brain is missing.
Dr Albert Reece, a Professor at Edith Cowan University said: “In the womb, it can not only interfere with brain development but basically amputate the forebrain.”
“But as with thalidomide”, he said, “no one is properly looking at the side-effects. They are frightening.”
Torri Metz, a University of Utah Professor, added: “There are also concerns about possible long-term effects on the developing brain, impacting cognitive function and decreasing academic ability later in childhood”.
In California, emergency room doctor, Karen Randall said: “We are at ground zero of this new medical epidemic which will lead to havoc.”
She added: “When a breast-feeding mother uses marijuana, it gets concentrated in the breast milk. There are many studies that show memory is decreased with constant use, so I guess that in five to ten years, we are going to see a lot of kids with learning issues.”
Dr Reece concluded: “Only once has a known teratogen like cannabis been marketed globally. That was thalidomide.
“It’s the reason we have the entire modern drug approval system, but the medical cannabis lobby is saying that system should be abandoned and the drug should be given to millions of people. It’s incredibly dangerous.”
In Britain, the Home Office has relaxed the law around cannabis to allow specialist doctors to prescribe the drug.