A woman from Arizona who used medical cannabis to battle morning sickness during pregnancy will have her name removed from Arizona's child-abuse registry.
The Arizona Supreme Court issued the order last week allowing Lindsay Ridgell to be no longer listed on the Confidential Registry - which has limited her job prospects since she was placed on the registry in 2019.
The ruling could also have broader implications, as medicinal marijuana consumption is less likely to be perceived legally as a form of child negligence.
The Supreme Court refused to consider an appeal from Arizona's Department of Child Safety and defended its determination to place Ridgell on the registry after her infant tested positive for cannabis in February 2019.
Last April, the department was on the losing end of a unanimous decision from a three-judge panel at the Arizona Court of Appeals. The panel found Ridgell's cannabis consumption did not amount to child neglect and was lawful.
At the time of her pregnancy, Ridgell worked for DCS and found herself not only accused of child negligence but also, as a result, out of a job.
A person's placement on the registry can be triggered by neglect and abuse charges which are part of employer background checks they use for staff who work with at-risk adolescents and adults. Anyone's name placed on the list remains on it for twenty-five years, which has prompted some to refer to it as a "black list."
Ridgell defended herself, saying she had a medical marijuana recommendation from her physician, who was well aware of her pregnancy. Ridgell said the cannabis helped to ease her morning-sickness symptoms.
Based on Arizona's Medical Marijuana Act, the appeals court noted that cannabis consumption "must be considered comparable to the use of any other medication under the guidance of a doctor" and concluded Ridgell did nothing wrong. Last year, that ruling reversed several previous legal judgments that found Ridgell had neglected her child.
Ridgell was only briefly available for comment but had previously stated last year that her son was doing well and that she had difficulty finding employment since being placed on the registry.
Ridgell's attorney, Julie Gunnigle, stated that the recent ruling should make it easier for his client to be hired. It also sets more stringent standards for DCS if it wants to assert neglect when a pregnant woman consumes medical cannabis under regulations established by state law.
For example, DCS would have to prove cannabis was consumed irresponsibly and put a child in harm's way, according to Gunnigle.
"This is of national importance," Gunnigle added. While other states have had medicinal marijuana issues related to child welfare cases, none have won a court ruling as straightforward as that the Arizona Court of Appeals handed up, she said.
Dozens of groups filed a friend-of-the-court brief supporting Ridgell. The groups included: the National Coalition for Child Protection Reform, the Academy of Perinatal Harm Reduction, the National Advocates for Pregnant Women, numerous physicians, and actress and comedian Amy Schumer, who has actively spoken about cannabis use during pregnancy.