Woman who used medical cannabis while pregnant appeals child neglect charge
By Emma Spears for the Regina Leader-Post
Under the supervision of her physician, the Arizona woman used cannabis to treat symptoms of hyperemesis gravidarum, a first-trimester illness that can cause severe nausea, vomiting, dizziness, weight loss and dehydration in pregnant women.
An Arizona woman who was found guilty of child neglect for consuming cannabis while pregnant is gaining national support after launching an appeal to fight the charges, according to Phoenix New Times.
Headed by the National Advocates for Pregnant Women, a group comprised of individuals and entities that include “health organizations, doctors, ethicists, scientific and medical experts, and advocates,” has filed a brief with the Arizona Court of Appeals on behalf of Lindsay Ridgell of Phoenix.
Ridgell was reportedly placed on the state’s Child Abuse Central Registry, which documents incidents of child abuse and neglect, and found guilty of civil child neglect for consuming medical cannabis during her 2018 pregnancy.
Under the supervision of her physician, the woman used cannabis to treat symptoms of hyperemesis gravidarum, a first-trimester illness that can cause severe nausea, vomiting, dizziness, weight loss and dehydration in pregnant women. The decision to use cannabis was made after other prescribed medications failed to alleviate her symptoms.
The brief notes Ridgell was hospitalized multiple times over the course of her pregnancy and gave birth in May 2019. But when her baby boy experienced health problems and was evaluated at a children’s hospital after birth, toxicology tests revealed the child had cannabinoids in his system.
Shortly thereafter, the Arizona Department of Child Safety (DCS) informed Ridgell that her name would be placed on the registry. She appealed the decision, with a judge reasoning in 2020 that the evidence presented by DCS “was not the kind of evidence on which a reasonable person would rely.” The court ordered that Ridgell be removed from the registry.
But a review by the Superior Court sided with the DCS, leading to the most recent appeal before the Arizona Court of Appeals. The appeal court will rule on whether or not Ridgell’s rights under the Arizona Medical Marijuana Act(AMMA), which includes an anti-discrimination provision, extend to the DCS Registry.
In her request for the appeal, Ridgell asserted her cannabis consumption was sanctioned by her medical provider, and that the AMMA protected her from discrimination as a result of her cannabis consumption, regardless of her pregnancy.
A GoFundMe in support of Ridgell was launched this past January and has raised US$600 in support of her case. The description notes that Ridgell has a degree in social work and was once herself an employee of the DCS.
Ridgell’s supporters include National Advocates for Pregnant Women, Americans for Safe Access, the National Perinatal Association, the North American Society of Psychosocial Obstetrics and Gynecology and comedian Amy Schumer, who herself suffered from hyperemesis gravidarum during her pregnancy.
Ridgell’s attorney Julie Gunnigle argues her client has been “the only one who presented any science” during the case. “It’s a decision that she was completely entitled to make,” Gunnigle reports.
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