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Arizona Supreme Court Rules Medical Marijuana Use During Pregnancy Is Not Child Neglect

Benzinga · 01/06/2023 15:37

The Arizona Supreme Court ordered the removal of a woman's name from the state's child abuse registry after it became public that she had consumed medicinal cannabis during her pregnancy.

What Happened

Lindsay Ridgell was combatting morning sickness and nausea during her pregnancy with medical cannabis

Although Ridgell argued that she had a medicinal marijuana card issued by her doctor in 2019, the state Department of Child Safety (DCS) decided to place her name on the agency's Central Registry after her newborn tested positive for cannabis, reported a local news outlet. Ridgell was working for DCS at the time of her pregnancy.

As a result of the department’s decision, Ridgell found herself accused of child neglect. She also said that later she had a hard time finding a job.

An Unfair "Black List"

DCS employers use the registry as part of its background checks on staff who work with vulnerable children and adults; neglect and abuse charges can trigger a person's placement on this Confidential Registry.

In addition, anyone placed on the list is doomed to remain on it for 25 years, which has prompted critics to label it as a "black list."

A Fair Court Ruling: Not Guilty!

However, the State's Supreme Court not only declined to accept an appeal from the DSC, which failed to garner support last April from the Court of Appeals, the three-judge panel found Ridgell's cannabis use was lawful and did not amount to child neglect.

"It's so magnificent! (...) My client has been suffering for four years, fighting the uncertainty of this case.” Ridgell's attorney, Julie Gunnigle said. While other states have had MMJ issues related to child welfare cases, “none of them have won a court ruling as clear as that handed up by the Arizona Court of Appeals,” Gunnigle added.

The appeals court also noted that Arizona's Medical Marijuana Act says cannabis use "must be considered the equivalent to the use of any other medication under the direction of a physician" and concluded Ridgell did nothing wrong.

How Safe is Cannabis During Pregnancy?

Women have taken cannabis to alleviate nausea and vomiting associated with morning sickness, stimulate appetite and calm anxiety and depression for decades by some accounts. While some studies confirmed these benefits, other studies and medical professionals discourage cannabis use for its risks to fetal development.

Dr. Joseph J. Morgan, professor of Cannabis education at the University of the Sciences in Philadelphia, said many factors, like the dose, method of administration and the parents' genetics can affect the safety of cannabis use during pregnancy. Morgan also recommends talking to your obstetrician-gynecologist (OB/GYN) if you're thinking of using cannabis while pregnant.

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Photo: Courtesy Of Ömürden Cengiz On Unsplash