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Woman who used medicinal cannabis while pregnant taken off Arizona child-abuse registry

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Date: 2023-01-12 13:07:02

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PHOENIX – An Arizona woman who used medicinal cannabis to combat morning sickness during her pregnancy will have her name removed from the state's child-abuse registry.

The order from the Arizona Supreme Court on Thursday means Lindsay Ridgell will no longer be listed on the Confidential Registry, which limited her job prospects since she was placed on it in 2019. It also could have broader implications, as medicinal cannabis use is less likely to be treated legally as a form of child neglect.

"It's so magnificent," Ridgell's attorney, Julie Gunnigle, said of the single-page order from the high court. "My client has been suffering for four years, fighting the uncertainty of this case.”

The Arizona Supreme Court declined to accept an appeal from the state Department of Child Safety, which defended its decision to list Ridgell on the registry after her newborn tested positive for cannabis in February 2019. The department was on the losing side of an unanimous decision from the Arizona Court of Appeals last April. The three-judge panel found Ridgell's cannabis use was lawful and did not amount to child neglect.

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Ridgell worked for Arizona's Department of Child Safety at the time of her pregnancy, and found herself not only accused of child neglect but also out of a job as a result.

Neglect and abuse charges can trigger a person's placement on the registry, which employers use as part of background checks on staff who work with vulnerable children and adults. Anyone placed on the list remains on it for 25 years, which has prompted critics to label it as a "black list."

Ridgell argued that she had a medicinal cannabis card issued by her doctor, who knew she was pregnant. Ridgell said she used the substance to ease morning-sickness symptoms.

The appeals court noted that Arizona's Medical Marijuana Act says cannabis use "must be considered the equivalent of the use of any other medication under the direction of a physician" and concluded Ridgell did nothing wrong. That ruling last year reversed a string of previous legal decisions that had found Ridgell had neglected her child.