The Impact of Early Life Exposure to Cannabis: The Role of the Endocannabinoid System Academic Article uri icon

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  • Cannabis use during pregnancy has continued to rise, particularly in developed countries, as a result of the trend towards legalization and lack of consistent, evidence-based knowledge on the matter. While there is conflicting data regarding whether cannabis use during pregnancy leads to adverse outcomes such as stillbirth, preterm birth, low birthweight, or increased admission to neonatal intensive care units, investigations into long-term effects on the offspring’s health are limited. Historically, studies have focused on the neurobehavioral effects of prenatal cannabis exposure on the offspring. The effects of cannabis on other physiological aspects of the developing fetus have received less attention. Importantly, our knowledge about cannabinoid signaling in the placenta is also limited. The endocannabinoid system (ECS) is present at early stages of development and represents a potential target for exogenous cannabinoids in utero. The ECS is expressed in a broad range of tissues and influences a spectrum of cellular functions. The aim of this review is to explore the current evidence surrounding the effects of prenatal exposure to cannabinoids and the role of the ECS in the placenta and the developing fetus.


  • Martínez-Peña, Annia A
  • Perono, Genevieve A
  • Gritis, Sarah Alexis
  • Sharma, Reeti
  • Selvakumar, Shamini
  • Walker, O’Llenecia S
  • Gurm, Harmeet
  • Holloway, Alison
  • Raha, Sandeep

publication date

  • August 9, 2021