by Chris Felt
On April 23rd, while Lindsey Rinehart was on camping trip with her husband and others, her two children were taken from their home by Boise City police officers and forced into foster care. This police action was preceded earlier in the day by a fifth grade boy consuming a “leafy green substance” and becoming ill. The boy happened to be a friend of Rinehart’s oldest son, Laustin. After the illness was reported, Laustin was taken to the principal’s office and questioned about where he had gotten the substance and if he was responsible for bringing it to school. Laustin was driven to tears and denied knowing anything about the substance. The police were called and were led to believe that the substance was marijuana. It was later in the evening when Rinehart’s home was raided and her children taken away. Because her children were separated from her, they were subsequently diagnosed with PTSD.
Marijuana was found by the police who believed it was “accessible” to the children and put them in “imminent danger”. This belief is what led to the children being removed from the home. The police found marijuana in Rinehart’s bedroom night stand and inside a refrigerator that Rinehart claims was locked. What is believed to have initially led the school to question Laustin and the police to raid Rinehart’s home was her prominence as a medical marijuana advocate.
The path that led Rinehart to activism began in 2007. That year, Rinehart was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis (MS), a disease that attacks the spinal and nervous system and causes spasms of intense pain. For Rinehart, her episodes came in the form of a burning sensation felt all over her body. She told Ladybud.com that, “It feels like (I’m) being dragged across hot pavement in 90-degree heat by a semi truck (sic).” The pain was so debilitating that she would not move for fear of aggravating the symptoms. She refused to touch or be touched by anyone because that would cause the pain to be unbearable. Her husband and two children could not show their affection for her by embracing, hugging, or even holding her hand. Because of her intense pain, she was denied the comfort of her family.
Before Rinehart began using marijuana she was treated with pharmaceutical medication. Her monthly bill for the medicine reached between the amounts of $5,000 – $6,000. Besides the overwhelming financial burden, another disadvantage to taking prescribed pharmaceuticals was the amount she had to take. At one point, she was taking thirteen pills to manage the various symptoms of MS. After doing research on the internet, Rinehart decided to try marijuana to help her cope with the painful symptoms caused by MS. After using marijuana, she did not experience as many spasms and only needed to take four pills instead of thirteen. Also from her inquiries, she found that marijuana may slow the progression of the disease.
Shortly after she started using it, Rinehart quickly became a prominent activist for the legalization of medical marijuana. She held drives for signatures that would put legal medical marijuana on the ballot in Idaho. She also became the director of Compassionate Idaho (a medical marijuana lobbyist group) and a member of Moms for Marijuana.
Rinehart and her children are some of the most recent victims of the Federal War on Drugs. It is a war that has taken away the right of states to decide what their drug policy should be. It is also a war that has proven to be unnecessary, ineffectual, and very harmful to vulnerable segments of the public. The Federal War on Drugs stifles free speech, hampers research into alternative medical practices, punishes those who are harming no one, and gives those in the federal government greater scope for coercion and control. If marijuana had the same legal standing as prescription drugs, then Rinehart would not have had to endure the hardships imposed on her. She could have spoken freely about the benefits of marijuana without having the school authorities and police taking her children from her.
If medical marijuana was legal, Rinehart and many others could freely choose how to treat their ailments instead of being forcibly medicated by the government sanctioned pharmaceutical monopoly. It is unfortunate that the people in Idaho don’t live in a state where medical marijuana is legal. Instead they live in state where a mother can be tormented for using a substance that eases her pain enough to allow her to embrace her children.
After three weeks of traversing the obstacles of the legal system, Rinehart was able to reunite with her children. However, it is unclear whether or not she will be criminally charged. Rinehart has since moved to Oregon where she is free to use medical marijuana. She is still dedicated to making medical marijuana legal in Idaho where she has, until recently, lived her whole life.