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'We are at ground zero of new medical epidemic'

The online ScienceMuseum describes the marketing of a sleeping pill called thalidomide to pregnant women “one of the darkest episodes in pharmaceutical research history.”

The teratogen made users sleepy and relaxed and was seen as a perfect example of the newly – at the time in the 1950s – fashionable tranquilizers.

But it caused malformed limbs in thousands of newborns, which parents discovered only after their children were born.

Now, a secret undercover study has revealed that expecting mothers are being told to take another teratogen, which by definition can cause malformation of an embryo.

It’s marijuana.

“Only once has a known teratogen like cannabis been marketed globally. That was thalidomide,” said Dr. Albert Reece, a professor at Edith Cowan University.

“In the womb, it can not only interfere with brain development but basically amputate the forebrain,” he warned. “But as with thalidomide, no one is properly looking at the side-effects. They are frightening.”

It was the Christian Institute that reported on an “undercover investigation” done by the University of Colorado, in one of the earliest states to approve, five years ago, the commercial business of selling marijuana, which found “women pretending to be suffering from morning sickness were encouraged to take cannabis.”

“Cannabis-based medicines are being distributed to pregnant mothers in the U.S., despite evidence that the drug harms babies,” the Institute’s report said.

“Researchers contacted cannabis dispensaries around the U.S. 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,'” the report said.

“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,” the report said.

However, the report confirmed cannabis use has been linked to birth defects including gastroschisis, where the intestines develop outside the body, congenital heart conditions and even anencephaly, where part of the brain is simply missing.

Torri Metz, a University of Utah professor, said in the Institute report, “There are also concerns about possible long-term effects on the developing brain, impacting cognitive function and decreasing academic ability later in childhood.”

“We are at ground zero of this new medical epidemic which will lead to havoc,” warned Karen Randall, an emergency room doctor in California.

“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,” she said.

The Daily Mail reported recently that the Colorado researchers found of 400 calls to cannabis dispensaries, two-thirds recommended their products for morning sickness.

“Edible [marijuana] would not hurt the child,” said one sales operator.

The report pointed out, “To blame is a simple fact: a multitude of studies over several years have shown all forms of cannabis to be ‘teratogenic.’ Meaning that, like tobacco or excessive alcohol, they can harm a fetus.”

It’s already been linked to several birth defects, including at least six that threaten the newborn’s life.

“Babies exposed to marijuana in utero are at increased risk of admission to neonatal intensive care units,” Metz said.

“There are also concerns about possible long-term effects on the developing brain, impacting cognitive function and decreasing academic ability later in childhood.”

The Institute reported studies by Harvard and the University of Montreal also have shown the drug “to be linked with poorer memory function, which could seriously damage young people’s academic ability.”

Psychiatrist Dr Max Pemberton said: “Whether its schizophrenia, anxiety or depression, serious mental health problems as a result of cannabis use are well-established.”