Arizona Supreme Court sets important precedent in pregnancy and cannabis case

Arizona’s Supreme Court ruled that it could remove some of the legal dangers that still exist for parents in states that have legalized marijuana.

In 2019, Lindsay Ridgell, a pregnant woman from Phoenix, used medical cannabis to treat hyperemesis gravidarum (HG), a life-threatening condition that causes extreme nausea and vomiting and can lead to miscarriage.

Ridgell was reported to the Arizona Department of Child Safety (DCS) and placed on the Arizona Child Abuse Registry after medical workers detected cannabis markers in blood tests after the birth of son Cyrus. For the next four years, Ridgell has fought in court against her DCS decision that her medical cannabis use amounted to fetal neglect.

Leafly’s 2022 report on the case, The Parent Trap: Old Drug Laws Punishing Families in Legal Cannabis States explored the impact on all parents and pregnant women.


The Parent Trap: How Old Drug Laws Punish Families in Marijuana-Legal States

On January 5, 2023, the Arizona Supreme Court denied DCS’s final petition to appeal last year’s Arizona Court of Appeals decision, finding that Ridgell’s cannabis use did not constitute child abuse or neglect. Decided unanimously. This decision closes the case in favor of Lindsay Ridgell.

In addition to removing Ridgell’s name from the registry, the decision sets a precedent regarding the legal consequences that pregnant and postpartum mothers may face from using medical cannabis. , has no legal significance beyond Arizona, but its influence can be felt in policy decisions and legal debates in all legitimate states.

Medical cannabis must be treated like any other drug

The Ridgell v. DCS decision of the Arizona Court of Appeals of May 2022, which is now valid as a result of the Arizona Supreme Court’s decision of January 5, states that Ridgell’s mother was an eligible medical cannabis patient. of cannabis use does not constitute child neglect. She takes cannabis under the supervision of her doctor. Ridgell got her medical cannabis card in 2010 when Arizona legalized medical cannabis.

Photo of Lindsay Ridgell and son Cyrus
Lindsay Ridgell gave birth to Silas in 2019. Now he is his 4 year old in good health. (Photo credit: Lindsey Ridgell)

The Arizona Medical Marijuana Act (AMMA) allows individuals with state-issued cards to use AMMA-compliant medical clearly protects against penalties associated with the use of It is incontrovertible that Ridgell had a legal medical cannabis card and was using cannabis under the supervision of a doctor.

Just as DCS cannot penalize mothers for using prescribed medications during pregnancy, the Arizona Court of Appeals ruled that DCS could not allow pregnant women with doctor-issued medical marijuana cards to use medical marijuana. has determined that it cannot be penalized to manage a qualifying condition or condition such as Ridgell.

A few weeks after the May 2022 decision, DCS appealed. On January 5, in response to a motion for appeal, the Arizona Supreme Court declined to hear further challenges to the judgment.

Parents still lose their children due to outdated laws.

As Leafly reported last year, 23 states and the District of Columbia clearly classify prenatal exposure to controlled substances as child abuse or neglect. In some states, medical marijuana use is a valid reason to terminate custody without evidence of harm or risk to children.

Additionally, lawmakers in some states are fighting to pass punitive laws against female medical cannabis users. For example, Alabama’s controversial SB 324 requires women of childbearing age to prove a negative pregnancy test result before obtaining her medical marijuana card.

This outdated approach to parental medical cannabis use is criminalizing pregnant women and tearing families apart across the United States, according to Ridgell attorney Julie Gannigle. Arizona Republicdetermined Ridgell vs. DCS of national importance.

The Ridgell decision will make it more difficult for DCS to prosecute pregnant women who use legally obtained medical marijuana for abuse or neglect. This affects all parents who use medical cannabis by setting a “higher bar” for child welfare agencies to claim parental neglect beyond evidence of cannabis use alone.

The decision could also lead to a broader reassessment of child welfare policies regarding parental cannabis use. In 2022, both California and New York passed new child welfare laws that protect parents from child abuse charges with cannabis use unless there is a report of harm or risk to the child.

Closure of Lindsay Ridgell

Ridgell, a former DCS social worker, was fired from her job because she was listed on the Child Abuse Registry. I am struggling with

Ridgell started a new social work job six months ago, but she hopes she can keep it because the case ruling is in her favor. As for Cyrus, he is now healthy and happy he is 3 years old.

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