Case Update: Arizona Mother Placed on Child Neglect Registry for Using Legal Medical Marijuana Wins on Appeal

Last week, the Arizona Court of Appeals reversed the Arizona Department of Child Safety’s decision to place Lindsay R. on its child abuse and neglect Central Registry for 25 years for using legally prescribed marijuana to treat her hyperemesis gravidarum (HG), a condition that causes severe nausea and vomiting and can endanger the life of the pregnant woman and her pregnancy.

Ms. R. was hospitalized twice for dehydration as a result of HG. She used prescribed medical marijuana to treat the condition. When her baby was born, he tested positive for marijuana. The Department of Child Safety (DCS), where Ms. R happened to have been employed, investigated her, issued a finding of child neglect, and terminated her employment.

The Court of Appeals’ decision reinforces that medical patients are protected by the Arizona Medical Marijuana Act (AMMA), as Ms. R argued. According to the Court, because the use of marijuana under the AMMA “must be considered the equivalent of the use of any other medication under the direction of a physician,” the exposure of Ms. R.’s infant to marijuana resulted from medical treatment and was not neglect.

In July 2021, we filed an amicus brief on behalf of 45 experts, organizations, and advocates, including Amy Schumer, in support of Ms. R. Our amicus brief made clear that the AMMA’s protections apply to pregnant people. DCS and the lower court also ignored the severity of HG, instead relying on junk science about prenatal exposure to cannabis.

Peer-reviewed scientific research does not support the conclusion that prenatal exposure to marijuana poses greater risks than other exposures. And children are not protected by equating medical marijuana use with child neglect and penalizing their parents.