Ciara A. Torres, Christopher Medina-Kirchner, Kate Y. O’Malley, and Carl L. Hart

Published in Frontiers in Psychology

May 2020


Despite limited data demonstrating pronounced negative effects of prenatal cannabis exposure, popular opinion and public policies still reflect the belief that cannabis is fetotoxic.

This article provides a critical review of results from longitudinal studies examining the impact of prenatal cannabis exposure on multiple domains of cognitive functioning in individuals aged 0 to 22 years. A literature search was conducted through PsycINFO, PubMed, and Google Scholar. Articles were included if they examined the cognitive performance of offspring exposed to cannabis in utero.

An examination of the total number of statistical comparisons (n = 1,001) between groups of participants that were exposed to cannabis prenatally and non-exposed controls revealed that those exposed performed differently on a minority of cognitive outcomes (worse on <3.5 percent and better in <1 percent). The clinical significance of these findings appears to be limited because cognitive performance scores of cannabis-exposed groups overwhelmingly fell within the normal range when compared against normative data adjusted for age and education.

The current evidence does not suggest that prenatal cannabis exposure alone is associated with clinically significant cognitive functioning impairments.


Open Access




Torres, C. A., Medina-Kirchner, C., O’malley, K. Y., & Hart, C. L. (2020). Totality of the Evidence Suggests Prenatal Cannabis Exposure Does Not Lead to Cognitive Impairments: A Systematic and Critical Review. Frontiers in Psychology, 11, 816.