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ASA Demanded a Pregnant Medical Cannabis Patient Should Not be on a Child-Abuse Registry…and the AZ Supreme Court Agreed!
On January 5, 2023, the Arizona Supreme Court declined to accept an appeal from the Arizona Department of Child Safety, letting stand a lower court decision that Lindsay Ridgell’s medicinal use of cannabis while pregnant did not constitute child neglect and ordered her name be removed from the state’s child abuse registry.
In July 2021, Americans for Safe Access, along with Pregnancy Justice (formerly National Advocates for Pregnant Women), Academy of Perinatal Harm Reduction, North American Society of Psychosocial Obstetrics and Gynecology, National Perinatal Association, and comedian Amy Schumer, who herself suffered from hyperemesis gravidarum during her pregnancy filed an amicus brief, prepared by attorney Jana Sutton, Esq., in support of the Arizona mother, urging the court to protect parents who benefit from medical cannabis.
This case began in 2018 when Lindsay Ridgell, who was pregnant at the time, was diagnosed with hyperemesis gravidarum, a first-trimester illness that can cause severe nausea, vomiting, dizziness, weight loss, and dehydration. Under the supervision of her physician, Ridgell registered as a medical cannabis patient and began administering medicinal cannabis to help alleviate her severe symptoms.
In May 2019, Ridgell gave birth to a baby boy, who subsequently tested positive for cannabinoids. As a result, Ridgell, despite using cannabis under a physician’s care and following the rules of the state’s medical cannabis program, was placed on the state’s child abuse registry, resulting in ongoing damage to her family.
In rejecting the state’s appeal, the Supreme Court set forth a big win that will have broad implications for patients in the state, as medicinal use of cannabis will be less likely treated as child abuse or neglect.
Medical cannabis patients, like any other patients, use their chosen treatment option under the guidance of medical professionals, who are in the best position to judge whether a treatment is necessary and safe. No state should penalize individuals for this, including in cases such as this, or in cases of child custody. A patient’s status in the medical cannabis program or their use of medical cannabis should never be treated as abuse or neglect, and should never be considered against them in such cases.
ASA is proud to be a part of this huge step in protecting patients’ rights in Arizona and we hope that other states will follow suit in protecting the rights of medical cannabis patients. ASA commends Lindsay Ridgell for her bravery in taking on this fight; her victory will impact countless mothers in the future.
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