Medical marijuana use is not child endangerment, according to Arizona Supreme Court
Lindsay Ridgell, a woman from Arizona, endured four long years of uncertainty after she was put on the state’s Confidential Registry in 2019 due to her use of medicinal cannabis to treat morning sickness during her pregnancy.
Fortunately, the Arizona Supreme Court has recently ordered that her name be removed from the registry, which will now have broader implications and mean that medicinal cannabis use is less likely to be treated legally as child neglect.
Ridgell had used medical marijuana to combat her morning sickness prior to learning she was pregnant. After discovering that she was more than seven weeks pregnant, she stopped taking it immediately. She sought advice from her doctor who told her that there were no known risks associated with drug use before conception. Despite this, Ridgell was later placed on the state’s Confidential Registry due to its policy at the time which saw any prenatal substance abuse as automatically classified as ‘neglectful’.
This news came with disastrous consequences for Ridgell; not only did it make it much more difficult for her to find employment, but there were also concerns about how this would impact any custody claims or disputes should they arise in the future. Thankfully, these worries can now be put to rest thanks to Thursday's order from the Supreme Court which effectively confirms that medicinal cannabis use during pregnancy cannot be seen as child neglect in Arizona.
This decision was made after the court declined an appeal from the Department of Child Safety Task (DCST) which argued against removing Ridgell's name from their records on the basis that it would encourage pre-conception drug use by pregnant women in the future.
Lawyers like Julie Gunnigle who represented Ridgell are delighted by this decision, believing that it sends out a strong message by providing some reassurance for expectant mothers who may otherwise have been scared away from seeking treatment or relief due to fear of consequences. It also ensures fairness towards those involved by avoiding situations where an individual such as Ridgell would face unnecessary repercussions for something which was done before knowing she was pregnant.