The investigation found at least 26 women charged with felony child neglect in Oklahoma since 2019 for using marijuana during their pregnancies, and the crime can carry a sentence of life in prison.
The in-depth reporting led to the discovery of several women charged with felony child neglect after their newborns tested positive for the substance.
You can find The Frontier’s full investigation here.
“[In] the case that I covered for this story, [the mother] had really severe morning sickness to the point where she couldn’t eat and she was losing weight during her pregnancy [and medical] marijuana is something that women use to deal with that problem,” said Managing Editor Brianna Bailey in an interview with KFOR, while noting that the baby in the case she covered was healthy.
“Used with a doctor’s recommendation, that’s somewhat of a different issue,” she added, also saying believed there were inconsistencies about the way the cases are being charged.
“People may disagree with a parent’s choice to use marijuana during a pregnancy [but]
if you have a medical marijuana card, you’re not doing anything illegal,” she said.
“More and more women are using marijuana during pregnancy,” added Bailey. “Is this something we want to prosecute mothers for?
“If it gets on the ballot and it passes, it’s just going to be an ever even bigger legal issue that we’re going to have to deal with,” she said.
Local lawyer James Wirth said there are statues for child neglect but they haven’t been prosecuted like this in the past, while adding that the decision to charge is based on s 2020 ruling from the Oklahoma Court of Criminal Appeals that wasn’t clear cut.
“It was an activist act by the Oklahoma Court of Criminal Appeals to re-interpret that statute to criminalize behavior [and] you’re facing the potential of life imprisonment for something that wasn’t illegal until it was interpreted to be illegal by the Oklahoma Court of Criminal Appeals.,” he said in an interview.
In an email Thursday to KFOR, the Oklahoma Medical Marijuana Authority (OMMA) said there aren’t any rules against using marijuana or holding a medical marijuana license during pregnancy.
Regarding penalties, OMMA does not have set penalties for those who don’t adhere to the warnings advising pregnant women/women who are breast feeding not to use/consume medical marijuana or medical marijuana products.
Regarding the specific cases, it would be inappropriate for us to comment on any litigation (pending or otherwise) when we are not a party to it. But I’ll reiterate: OMMA rules and the state laws upon which OMMA rules are based do not have penalties related to pregnancy or breastfeeding and medical marijuana use. The warnings on medical marijuana labeling regarding pregnancy and breastfeeding are required by our rules.Oklahoma Medical Marijuana Authority