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There are 23 million Americans over the age of 12 addicted to alcohol and other drugs. To prevent this number from rising even more, the state of Alabama is cracking down specifically on pregnant marijuana users.
Despite the fact that marijuana is becoming legalized across the country for both recreational and medicinal use, women in Alabama still face harsh penalties for smoking cannabis.
Since 2006, 130 pregnant or new mothers have been arrested for chemical endangerment of a child for using marijuana while pregnant. This is a felony arrest charge and the punishments and bail amounts differ from county to county across the state.
For example, arrests in DeKalb County have reached $100,000, while those in Morgan County rarely exceed $7,500. But no matter the punishment, lawmakers report that marijuana offenses have taken up a full 20% of the charges placed against new mothers between 2006 and 2015.
This crackdown comes at a time where federal averages of pregnant mothers using marijuana are at an all-time high. A 2014 federal study reports that almost 4% of pregnant mothers admitted to using cannabis during their pregnancies, which is up from 2.3% in 2002.
But what’s interesting is that researchers have very limited data about how marijuana use impacts the child’s development in the womb. Controlled research has never been conducted to compare the outcomes of infants exposed to marijuana before birth to those who were smoke-free, but doctors note that low birth weight and pre-term birth are more common in pregnancies of mothers who smoke.
Exposure to marijuana is not always evident at birth and in many cases the hospital staff tests for it in the child’s first bowel movement. If traces of the drug is found, the baby is then removed from the mother who is subsequently arrested.
Not only is Alabama cracking down on pregnant mothers, there has also been legislation that allows for felony charges to be brought against adults who possess marijuana around children.