An Alabama bill introduced last week would require women ages 13 to 50 produce a negative pregnancy test within the last 48 hours before being allowed to purchase medical cannabis. The bill also seeks to outlaw a “breast-feeding woman” from buying cannabis, unless they’re a caregiver. A man who got someone pregnant, or lives with a pregnant person, of course does not have to show any papers.
You’d be forgiven for assuming this legislation was put forth by a man without a medical degree (especially with the gender essentialism of failing to mention AFAB people) or any understanding of reproductive healthcare. Sadly, this is not the case: The bill’s sponsor is state Sen. Larry Stutts, a practicing OB/GYN and Republican.
Stutts has previously stated his opposition to medical marijuana, and sees this legislation as a way to curb its effects. “I’m still not in favor of the marijuana bill, but it is in place. I think it can be improved and one of the ways it can be improved is to limit pregnant people, limit their availability to it,” Stutts said on an Alabama radio program in early March.
This bill reeks of paternalism and faux concern for pregnant people and their health; it’s just another way to police pregnancy. Research has failed to support the claim that marijuana poses a greater risk than other prenatal exposures. And in a state like Alabama, this bill would open pregnant people to child abuse charges. In Arizona, a mother was placed on the state’s abuse registry after May 2019 birth of her son, following her legal use of marijuana to treat a severe prenatal nausea condition. An appeals court overturned this finding just last week.
“I feel so happy. A weight has lifted from my shoulders and I feel free,” Lindsay Ridgell told Phoenix New Times last week. “This means a lot to myself and my family. I can finally go back into social work and hopefully earn a higher wage than I have been the past couple years.” Ridgell was a former employee of the Department of Child Safety and could have remained on this registry for a quarter century. “As well as find more fulfillment in work, I miss helping people, especially kids.”
So, even with the most charitable reading of Stutts’ motives, I remain highly skeptical. These kinds of laws only infantilize pregnant people and force them further into the hands of cops, prosecutors, and the state.