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Smoking Pot Is Legal and a Bad Idea for Parents

Photograph by Twenty20

Lighting up has become less of an issue among adults, as laws around medicinal and recreational marijuana use have started to loosen. Still, parents may want to think twice about it, in light of a new study, which concluded pot and parenting are a bad combo for kids.

The study was a small one, but its findings are worth further investigation. This initial research, NPR has reported, found that kids of pot smokers, or those whose caretakers smoke up, absorb chemicals from secondhand marijuana smoke.

The study is small—just 43 kids in Colorado, where recreational use of marijuana is legal—and includes children from 1 month to 2 years old who had been hospitalized for bronchitis. Urine samples from these subjects were sent to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, where it was run through a new and highly sensitive test that detects "marijuana metabolites."

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Of the 43 children, 16 percent tested positive for the metabolites. For those kids whose parents and caregivers reported their child had been exposed to pot use, the urine of 75 percent of them showed traces of the drug.

This led the study's authors to conclude kids are absorbing elements from marijuana if they are around potsmokers.

"This is the first time we've been able to demonstrate that there are detectable marijuana metabolites in the urine of children who've been exposed to marijuana," says Dr. KarenWilson, who is the Debra and Leon Black division chief of general pediatrics at Mount Sinai in New York and lead author of the study. "There is a strong association between those who said there was someone in the home who used marijuana or a caretaker who used marijuana and the child having detectable marijuana levels."

Whether traces of marijuana in a child's urine is risky has yet to be determined. However, there are clues that it could be damaging to brain development. According to recent research, even low amounts of THC can cause problems for babies whose moms smoked marijuana while pregnant. THC is the psychoactive ingredient in pot and may be the cause of brain development issues in fetuses and babies. Studies show that teens' still developing brains are adversely affected by pot smoking, often causing problems with attention, motivation and memory.

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This isn't a call to overturn laws legalizing pot. Rather, healthcare advocates like Dr. David Beuther, a pulmonologist and associate professor of medicine at National Jewish Health in Denver, are urging users to keep it well away from children. He told NPR that secondhand smoke from pot is no safer than secondhand smoke from cigarettes, though many users think otherwise.

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