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Melanie Dreher, a grad student in the late 1960’s, was chosen to perform an ethnographic study on the use of marijuana in Jamaica to document its usage and any possible consequences among pregnant women. She studied 24 Jamaican babies exposed to marijuana prenatally and 20 infants who weren’t. Most studies conducted in North America show that marijuana causes birth defects and developmental disabilities. However, it must be noted that those studies didn’t isolate marijuana, but rather lumped it in with other types of substances, like alcohol, tobacco, meth and heroin.
Dreher found that in Jamaica, infants exposed to marijuana didn’t have any negative impact on children according to the Brazelton Scale, which is a neonatal behavioral assessment. On the contrary, some of the children seemed to excel. This answer was not well received, however, particularly by the National Institute on Drug abuse, which funded her research. Once these findings became clear, they ended funding for the research and didn’t readily release its results. Sounds a little fishy, right?
March of Dimes was supportive,” Dreher says, “But it was clear that NIDA was not interested in continuing to fund a study that didn’t produce negative results. I was told not to resubmit. We missed an opportunity to follow the study through adolescence through manhood.” Today, Melanie Dreher is the dean of nursing at Rush University with degrees in anthropology, philosophy, and nursing. She also has a Ph.D. In anthropology from Columbia University. Despite marijuana’s clear medicinal effects, she understands why many medical professionals opt not to have anything to do with this line of research. It’s our hope that in the near future, we’ll be able to look deeper into this issue. Until then, keep an open mind.