Mad River Union
HUMBOLDT – The county’s Board of Supervisors has advised against using cannabis during pregnancy and breastfeeding, and the idea of requiring dispensaries and farms to post warnings on it has gained traction.
A resolution approved at the August 20 supervisors meeting declares that “women in Humboldt County who are contemplating pregnancy, already pregnant, breastfeeding or who plan to breastfeed should avoid using cannabis in any form, including smoking, eating, vaporizing or as lotions or salves.”
According to the resolution, using cannabis during pregnancy can increase the risk of low birth weight and “affect a baby’s brain development.”
Board Chair Rex Bohn proposed doing more than mere approval of a resolution and asked if posting warnings at retail cannabis businesses could be mandated. “We put warning labels on everything and this is a direct relation,” he said. “We could make that a requirement for dispensaries – and, probably, at farms.”
Laura Mojica, a lactation consultant at St. Joseph’s Redwood Memorial Hospital, said there’s been discussion of outreach to farms and businesses.
Bohn believes they wouldn’t oppose posting warnings. “I think our legal family farmers and things like that would probably join in this wholeheartedly because most of them are parents,” he said.
“I’d say that’s a fantastic idea and I’d be happy to work with the Planning and Building Department on that,” said County Public Health Officer Michele Stephens.
Stephens had reported that as of 2015, Humboldt County’s rate of general “perinatal substance use disorder” is 3.7 times the state’s average. This led to collaboration between the county’s Department of Health and Human Services and multiple health and social services agencies on establishing alcohol and drug screening and treatment standards.
A second phase of the effort focusing on cannabis use began in May 2017.
Mary Ann Hansen, executive director of First Five Humboldt said the ready availability and variety of cannabis products leads to “the decrease in the perception of harm among pregnant and breastfeeding women while using cannabis.”
She added, “Without research-based messaging, women are relying on their peers and on CBD or cannabis businesses for their information.”
While more research is needed to confirm whether there are dangers, Hansen told supervisors that “there is no known evidence that shows that the use of cannabis while breastfeeding or pregnant is safe.”
The resolution stems from review of what research there is. “We know that cannabis use during pregnancy can affect the developing fetus’ brain” Mojica said, citing a 2011 study from the Journal of Neurotoxicology and Tetratology.
She added that “multiple studies” show that smoking cannabis during pregnancy can increase the risk of low birth weight. The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists has discouraged pregnant women from using cannabis for that reason, she said.
Mojica said THC, the psychoactive ingredient in cannabis, has higher concentrations in breast milk than in blood.
Educational brochures have been created and guidelines for medical practitioners are in the process of being developed.
During public comment Connie Stewart of the California Center for Rural Policy at Humboldt State University, which is one of the members of the collaboration, said the recommendations stem from “a very thorough process” and are “well-supported by the (health care) provider community.”
At the end of the presentation, Bohn reiterated the call for mandatory postings at cannabis businesses, saying, “Most dispensary owners are pretty responsible but I think we can put a little teeth into it and require it.”
‘Corrective’ action: Also during the meeting, the results of an external audit of the county’ financial accounting and a Corrective Action Plan that addresses its findings were discussed.
The audit covers the year ending on June 30, 2018, six months before County Auditor Controller Karen Paz Dominguez took office. She said an element of the corrective action plan is a new system for making debt collection more efficient and trackable.
Also tightened up are year-end closing procedures and accounting related to county trust funds. The number of trust funds is being reduced and the unsound practice of counting revenues twice as they go in and out of trust funds is being stopped.
Improved tracking of revenues, payments and capital assets is also part of the plan.
Paz Dominguez said that “enforcing accounting rules” promotes consistency and helps new department employees track financial information. She added that her office will “promote countywide procedures instead of department-specific procedures” to make overall accounting clearer and more effective.
Supervisors were pleased with the efforts. Supervisor Steven Madrone told Paz Dominguez, “It’s amazing to me how far we’ve come just in the last seven months with you at the helm.”