HEC Forum

, Volume 31, Issue 1, pp 11–27 | Cite as

Ethical Issues Arising from Marijuana Use by Nursing Mothers in a Changing Legal and Cultural Context

  • Jessica MillerEmail author


In the early 2000s, several states legalized marijuana for medicinal uses. Since then, more and more states have either decriminalized or legalized marijuana use for medical or recreational purposes. Federal law has remained unchanged. The state-level decriminalization of marijuana and the concomitant de-stigmatizing and mainstreaming is likely to lead to greater use among the general population, including among nursing mothers. Marijuana is already one of the most widely used illicit substances among lactating women. There exist few studies demonstrating the effects of marijuana in breast milk on nursing babies. In the present context of a changing legal landscape, shifting cultural beliefs, and the absence of clear professional guidelines, healthcare professionals are faced with ethical questions around how best to support nursing mothers and their babies when marijuana use is a factor. This paper first presents an overview of the law, science, and professional guidelines as they relate to marijuana and breastfeeding. Then, I offer an assessment of the relevant ethical issues providers and their patients may need to navigate.


Breastfeeding Nursing mother Marijuana THC Ethics NICU 


Compliance with Ethical Standards

Conflict of interest

The author declares that she has no potential conflicts of interest to disclose.

Ethical Approval

This article does not contain any studies with human participants or animals.

Informed Consent

There is no informed consent because this article does not contain any studies performed by the author involving human subjects.


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Copyright information

© Springer Nature B.V. 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of PhilosophyUniversity of MaineOronoUSA

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