We might have lost the battle, but (thanks to your help with a recent GoFundMe) the war isn’t over yet! Almost a year ago, we published an article right here about how DCS (the Department of Child Safety) is refusing to follow guidelines established in the AMMA, or Arizona Medical Marijuana Act.
The mother in this case, L.R., went to school with a passion to help others. She obtained a degree in social work and was even employed by the Department of Child Safety. Shockingly, that same department is now jeopardizing L.R.’s desire to help others by entering her into its Central Registry with a finding of neglect. The Central Registry is a list of parents who have been deemed as bad people by the state of Arizona for either child abuse or neglect. When a person is entered on to the list, it prevents them from working with children, the elderly and special needs or vulnerable people. If this finding of neglect is entered, L.R. fingerprint clearance card would be revoked, meaning she could no longer care for vulnerable individuals making her degree pointless.
Why did this all happen? Well, cannabis, of course. L.R.’s qualifying condition for her patient card is IBS/irritable bowel syndrome. As any mother knows, pregnancy can exacerbate all issues mental and physical, and L.R. was no different. In addition to her IBS, L.R. developed another health issue from her pregnancy, Hyperemesis Gravidarum. Hyperemesis Gravidarum can cause severe nausea and a feeling of faintness or dizziness when standing. Additionally, it can cause persistent vomiting, which may lead to dehydration, none of which are beneficial to growing a baby. As a result of this condition, L.R. only gained 20 lbs during her pregnancy and required two hospital visits, leading to a prescription for Zofran. However, it barely helped her terrible symptoms.
L.R. also had to stop using medications she had been taking for her anxiety and depression, which resulted in her getting prescribed Celexa and Buspar for almost her entire pregnancy. Both drugs are known to have side effects on unborn babies
DCS Protocol and Training
Throughout the entire time L.R. was pregnant, she kept and maintained her medical cannabis card for IBS. L.R. had prior experience with DCS and their treatment of medical marijuana patients, as she was once an investigator. She recalled that after the AMMA was enacted, between September 2015 and May 2019, she was assigned to investigate 10 to 15 cases a year involving infant’s prenatal exposure to marijuana. If a mother had a medical marijuana card, the marijuana exposure was to be treated like any other prescribed medicine. L.R. had been trained that after the baby was born, as long as the marijuana was kept out of the reach of the children, she and her supervisor generally determined the mother’s prenatal use of marijuana would not provide the basis for a charge of neglect or abuse.”
From her training with DCS, L.R. thought she was doing everything right. But due to complications during childbirth, her experience didn’t hold true in this instance. Her son suffered a stroke shortly after birth, maybe because he spent too much time in the birth canal. Her son also was jittery, which is believed to be from stopping Buspar two months before the birth.
Even though the discharge summary from Phoenix Children’s Hospital states, “the [newborn] in this case had intrauterine exposure to the addictive drugs Buspar, marijuana and Celexa” and noted his “jitteriness.” The discharge papers stated, “Mother besides reported high caffeine use and taking Benadryl while pregnant.”
However, out of all those prescribed drugs with known side effects on record, DCS decided to enter a finding of neglect in the Central Registry solely for medical cannabis.
When we last looked at this CASE, L.R. and her attorney Sonia Martinez, appealed against DCS finding of neglect to Administrative Court. Adiminative Judge Diane Mihalsky sided with L.R. on March, 6th, 2020.
In her ruling, Judge Mihalsky states:
“Although AMMA did not change the definition of ‘neglect’ in the Department’s statutes, it changed parents’ and their treating healthcare professionals’ healthcare options for alleviating the adverse maternal effects of pregnancy to make a healthy baby’s birth more likely.”
Judge Diane Mihalsky’s ruling also points out the biases of the Department by stating:
“The Department does not seek to substantiate an incident of neglect against Appellant based on her use of Celexa and Buspar during her pregnancy, even though prenatal exposure to those drugs may pose a risk to a developing fetus.”
Nonetheless, in true bully fashion, Mike Faust the Director of Arizona’s DCS, pulls Arizona Revised Statutes, 41-1092.08(B), and rejects and modifies the Admintive Courts order, back to suit the will of the department.
ARS § 41-1092.08(B) allows the director of an agency like DCS to do three things with an Administrative Law Order, except it, modify it or reject it.
Even so, mother L.R. and her attorney battled on in Superior Court, seeking to appeal DCS’ finding of neglect from being entered into the Central Registry, once again.
In spite of the previous judge siding with the mother, Superior Court Judge Kiley, affirmed DCS’s finding of neglect in the Central Registry, stating that the purpose of the Central Registry is not punishment but protection of children and vulnerable people.
What is there left to do? Battle on in the name of the AMMA and medical freedom. Unfortunately for L.R., the attorney that took her case this far does not litigate cases in Arizona’s appellate courts. Luckily for us, however, Julie Gunnigle, the recent former candidate for Maricopa County Attorney stepped up for medical cannabis patient rights as well as for parents in Arizona.
The only thing holding back the progression of the case was $400 dollars, the cost of filing in the court of appeals.
This is where the amazing cannabis community comes in!!!
FOLLOW UP TO GO FUND ME
We reached out to mother, L.R. who gave the following statement:
Thank you all so much for your help! I am so grateful to everyone who made a donation, from big to small. Your generous donations allow me to continue to fight the Department of Child Safety and fight for the rights of Arizona Medical Marijuana patients. Our family is currently struggling financially and would never have been able to come up with the funds on our own. I was not expecting the funds to be raised so quickly, we met our goal before the Go Fund me was up for 24 hours! My heart is warmed by the help from the medical marijuana community here in AZ. I appreciate you all! The extra funds will be used if I need to take time off work to go to court hearings down in Phoenix (I live in Northern AZ).
Additionally, the publisher and writer here at The Kush Kronicles, would like to thank all the people that shared the fundraiser as well. We are truly an amazing community when we come together!