Mother Loses Infant Daughter Over Tea

Marijuana use for medicinal and therapeutic reasons has increased in recent years, with bills to legalize the drug rolling out in individual states on a fairly consistent basis.

Ohio just struck down its law proposing the legalization of marijuana at an unfortunate time for one family in particular. Hollie Sanford, an Ohio mother, had her baby taken from her by the juvenile court because she consumed marijuana tea for morning sickness finding it to be safer than pharmaceuticals. If Ohio had passed legislation legalizing marijuana, there would have been no grounds for this distressing occurrence.

When it was discovered that Sanford’s daughter, Nova, tested positive for a “bi-product of marijuana” in the hospital, the baby girl was taken from her parents. According to reports, Sanford used marijuana tea in lieu of prescription pain medication for nausea and pregnancy-related pain.

“If people want to say I’m a terrible parent, that’s their right,” Sanford said to a local news outlet. “I did my research and I felt like what I was doing was safe. I know in my heart that I’m an excellent mother. What happened should not have caused my baby to be taken from me.”

Indeed, Cuyahoga County Children & Family Services attorneys agree with her. Apparently, the judge in the decision, Eleanore Hilow is known for rulings that disregard the expert opinions of professionals. In the Sanfords’ case, the judge’s ruling goes directly against the recommendation of social workers involved in the case. Judge Hilow is also known for being “ill-tempered” and punitive according to journalist Jenn Gidman of Fox News Health. While cannabis is still illegal in Ohio, it is interesting that this judge’s opinion seems to be clouding her decision so much. 

What does science say about cannabis during pregnancy? 

In an article published in the Journal of Cannabis Therapeutics in 2002, author Wei-Ni Lin Curry investigated the possibility of treating hyperemesis gravidarum (HG) with medical cannabis. HG is unlike typical morning sickness in that it causes the mother severe nausea and vomiting, resulting in weight loss and malnutrition that puts both mother and baby at risk.

As the study points out, current clinical and pharmaceutical interventions are, “(1) partially effective, if at all, (2) costly and unaffordable without health insurance, (3) questionable in their long-term safety for the fetus, as most have not been scientifically tested, and (4) in more severe cases, physically painful and psychologically disempowering for the pregnant woman.”

Many of the women surveyed in the study became so ill that they experienced malnourishment to the point of wasting away. After trying a number of prescription and natural solutions, nothing provided relief except marijuana. Since marijuana is still illegal in most states, using cannabis products during pregnancy can lead to court intervention as we’ve seen in Ohio, despite the fact that anecdotal evidence finds children develop normally and are healthy after birth.

At the conclusion of the study, which the author calls an “underground, pilot study on HG and cannabis” due to social and legal issues, the author writes, “While my findings revealed some promise, I am left feeling deeply frustrated by the social and legal impossibilities of engaging in a formal clinical study in present-day America.” 

Baby in white winter hatOther reviews and studies rely heavily on self-reports since it would be illegal in most locations to give cannabis to pregnant women for testing purposes. A review by Ethan Russo, MD, of the University of Washington titled “Cannabis Treatments in Obstetrics and Gynecology: A Historical Review” presented the legacy of cannabis use for obstetrical and gynecological patients throughout history. His findings led him to write, “Cannabis extracts may represent an efficacious and safe alternative for treatment of a wide range of conditions in women including dysmenorrhea, dysuria, hyperemesis gravidarum, and menopausal symptoms.” Such literature is encouraging, yet until marijuana use is legalized throughout the United States, we probably won’t see much in the way of robust studies.

We’re happy to see that something natural can offer relief for mothers who are seriously — and sometimes close to fatally — ill. Hopefully mothers like Sanford will soon be able to use marijuana products to ease some of their symptoms during pregnancy, without the intervention of local law enforcement. Nova Sanford is currently living with relatives, and we hope to hear soon of her return to her parents. 

Would you consider using cannabis products during your pregnancy?

-Megan Winkler

Megan Winkler is an author, historian, Neurosculpting® meditation coach, certified nutritional consultant and DIY diva. When she’s not writing or teaching a class, Megan can be found in the water, on a yoga mat, learning a new instrument or singing karaoke. Her passion for a healthy mind-body-spirit relationship motivates her to explore all the natural world has to offer.


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