Oklahoma District Attorneys Are Prosecuting Pregnant Women for Using Medical Marijuana


By Hunter Dublin | September 13, 2022


Amanda Aguilar experienced terrible morning sickness early in her pregnancy, occasionally making it difficult for her to eat. Aguilar was charged with felony child neglect for using medical marijuana during her pregnancy to cope with morning sickness


Aguilar who is 33 said she stopped using marijuana after her third month of pregnancy and tested negative for the drug after her healthy son was born in October 2020. Her doctor had previously approved a medical marijuana license for her. However, the hospital discovered marijuana in her infant's stool.


Aguilar was charged with child negligence, a felony, two months later by the district attorney of her rural county near the Kansas border. She recently declined to comment on the advice of her public defender because she has decided to fight the charge.


According to a Frontier investigation, she is one of at least 26 women charged with felony child neglect in Oklahoma since 2019 for using marijuana during their pregnancies. Although prior offenders pled guilty and received probation, the offense in Oklahoma carries a sentence of up to life in prison.


At least eight of the ladies held state medical marijuana certificates, which allow holders to legally purchase and use cannabis upon a doctor's prescription.


As stated by the nonprofit National Advocates for Pregnant Women, which keeps track of pregnancy charges, these cases from Oklahoma are the only ones of this nature that the organization is aware of.


In Alabama, pregnant women who filled their doctor's prescriptions for medicine have been charged. After the birth of her son in 2019, authorities in Arizona put one mother on a career-limiting child abuse registry, alleging that she had neglected her unborn kid by smoking marijuana while in possession of a medical marijuana license.





The appeals court found that medicinal marijuana was comparable to any medication administered under a doctor's supervision, which led to the case being reversed earlier this year.


Future charges in Oklahoma are likely to hinge on whether medical marijuana can be classified as an "illegal drug." According to decisions made in 2020 and 2021 by the state Court of Criminal Appeals, women in Oklahoma who use illegal narcotics while pregnant may be charged with child neglect.


All of these decisions concerned pregnant women who had used methamphetamine. Although marijuana is typically allowed for adults in the state, provided they have a license from the Oklahoma Medical Marijuana Authority, women have been prosecuted here even after giving birth to healthy infants.


According to the organization, no laws forbid pregnant women from using the substance or possessing a license, and there are also no consequences for doing so. Before approving a patient for a medicinal marijuana license in Oklahoma, doctors are not required to inquire if the patient is pregnant or could become pregnant.


Similar to the packaging for cigarettes, medical licenses and cannabis products in the state have to advise warnings against usage during pregnancy. Pregnant women are advised not to use marijuana, cigarettes, alcohol, or other drugs. One of the two-state prosecutors who had filed charges against pregnant women, Brian Hermanson, has not replied to numerous recent requests for comment. He has claimed in previous interviews that the warnings on Oklahoma's medical marijuana license support his claims that mothers should not use drugs while pregnant. "If they make bad decisions about using drugs while pregnant, they're probably going to make other bad decisions when raising the child," he said last November.



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