Idaho Seizes Medical Marijuana Activists' Kids [FEATURE]

Idaho is officially not a marijuana-friendly state. Although it is bordered on most sides by medical marijuana states (Washington, Oregon, Nevada, and Montana), it so far refuses to accept the medicinal use of the herb. And even though one of those states (Washington) has legalized marijuana and two others (Nevada and Oregon) have decriminalized it, Idaho remains firmly grounded in 20th Century attitudes toward the plant. The state legislature this year took the time to approve a non-binding resolution noting its opposition to marijuana legalization.

But that doesn't mean there aren't reformers in the Gem State. There have been sporadic local marijuana legalization efforts in past years, and this year, medical marijuana supporters are in the midst of signature-gathering campaign to put an initiative on the ballot.

That campaign is led by Compassionate Idaho, some of whose most stalwart and publicly visible members are Lindsey and Josh Rinehart and Sarah Caldwell. But with an incident that began while Caldwell and the Rineharts were away on a retreat, the trio are learning a harsh lesson in hardball pot politics. When they got back home, their kids were gone, and the police and child social services had them.

According to Boise Police, who released a statement on the matter as controversy grew, on April 23, they were contacted by a local school official about a child who had apparently eaten marijuana and fallen ill. Police "learned from witnesses" that the supposed marijuana supposedly came from the Rinehart residence, and, "concerned for the safety of children at the residence," they went there and found a baby sitter caring for the Rinehart and Caldwell children.

Police persuaded the baby sitter to let them search the residence and "found drug paraphernalia, items commonly used to smoke marijuana, and a quantity of a substance that appeared to be marijuana in locations inside the house accessible to the children." Police at the scene then contacted both narcotics investigators and the department's Special Victims Unit.

(Rinehart, a Multiple Sclerosis sufferer, said she indeed had medical marijuana at home, but that she had a small amount and a pipe on a dresser in her bedroom, a larger amount of trim locked away in a freezer, and some marijuana tincture in a bottle in a kitchen cabinet atop her refrigerator.)

"Based on the fact that illegal drugs and drug paraphernalia were located in an area that appeared to be commonly used by the children in the residence and the fact that one child had already become ill from ingesting what he assumed was marijuana, and the inability to contact the children's parents, detectives made the decision to contact Idaho Health and Welfare officials and place the children in imminent danger, meaning they were placed in the protective custody of the state until it can be determined they are in a safe environment," the statement said.

At this point, it is unclear whether whatever made the school child sick was marijuana. It is equally unclear that any marijuana came from the Rinehart residence. What is clear is that both the Rineharts and Sarah Campbell are up-front, in-your-face medical marijuana patients and activists, and that their children were being subjected to the tender mercies of the state.

Sarah Caldwell has had her kids returned to her -- it was not her child who is suspected of providing the suspected marijuana -- but the Rineharts are still fighting to get their kids returned.

"My sons were not involved," Caldwell said. "They were at the house the police searched, the police decided my kids were in 'imminent danger,' and it took three days to get them back."

While the two boys and the Rinehart kids were held at the same foster home, providing them with the small comfort of being with friends, Caldwell said her younger son was traumatized.

"My six-year-old is autistic," she explained. "I noticed when he came home, he started packing his favorite toys. I asked him why and he said, 'In case the police make me go away again.' He doesn't understand why," Caldwell said, her voice breaking.

While Caldwell has her children at home again, both she and the Rineharts are going to have to comply with the requirements of the child welfare system to ensure that their children can return to their old lives. But, Lindsey Rinehart said, Child Protective Services is moving more quickly than usual in her case.

Sarah Caldwell's boys are back at home now, but the Rineharts are still waiting to get theirs back.
Normally, Child Protective Services requires parents to meet with them at the department three times, then allows them to have three visits with their children in the community, then inspects the home to ensure a safe environment is being provided, and only then considers returning the kids, most likely with the added provision that the parents must undergo parenting and drug education classes.  But when the Chronicle last spoke to Rinehart Saturday, she was in the middle of a home visit with her kids -- one that ends Sunday morning.

"They seem to be expediting the process because they realize they messed up," she said. The state taking her kids wasn't doing them any favors, she added.

"My oldest son now will only talk if you ask him really specific questions, and my younger one is acting out," she said. "He is upset and argumentative; he has a hard time vocalizing things," she said of her six-year-old. "I told him I had to go to the store, and he freaked out; he didn't want me to leave him. He's reacting like I've never seen before. He was a happy kid; now he's mad and confused. He doesn't understand what's going on."

The older Rinehart son is having issues, too, she said.

"He's mad. Both of the kids have been educated about my medicine, so they know this is wrong," the multiple sclerosis sufferer explained. "They're mad that they were taken away because mommy had her medicine. I'm trying to comfort them as best as I can. They just know that somebody took them away, and now I have to explain that they have to go back to foster care tomorrow," Rinehart said, her voice trembling.

Both the Rineharts and Sarah Caldwell suspect they were set up.

"I'm the director of Compassionate Idaho.  Everybody knows who I am. I'm on the news at least once a month," said Rinehart. "We had just done the Hemp Fest in Moscow and signature-gathering in five towns. The police knew what they were looking for, and they knew where to look without anyone telling them. Those kids on the playground didn't know where to look. There were kids from several other families involved in that playground incident, but we think the police got who they wanted."

"I do think they were targeting us," Caldwell agreed. "That incident at the school was just an excuse for them to try to get us."

"This has got me fired up," Caldwell said. "They took my children to try to keep me focused on getting my kids back so I wouldn't do my activism, but I'm not going to stop."

The use of children as pawns in the marijuana culture wars is shocking and distressing, but nothing new, said Keith Stroup, founder and currently counsel for the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws (NORML).

"We get calls three or four times a week from people who have lost custody of their children because they tested positive at birth or in a situation where parents are feuding over custody," Stroup said. "One will say 'My spouse smokes marijuana and is thus not a fit parent,' and once that child welfare issue is raised, it's a totally separate matter from the criminal justice system. Even if no one is proposing to arrest the parent, this is far more damaging and destructive to the family."

That's at least in part because once child welfare has its clutches on you, it doesn't want to let go, and it typically has an attitude toward marijuana use that is reminiscent of Reefer Madness, Stroup said.

"They can require that you take parenting and drug education courses right out of the 1950s," he said. "It's a worthless routine, but you have to do it, you have to pay hundreds of dollars to do it, and you can't get your kids back until you do it. It doesn't matter how nice or good a parent you are or how well-intentioned you are, once you get caught up in this, you are in for a bad time."

NORML is doing what it can to assist the Idaho activists, Stroup said, adding some words of advice for other marijuana-using parents, especially (but not only) in places where attitudes toward the herb are hide-bound and hardened.

"If you're in a place like Idaho and you're a young parent, never smoke in front of your kids, so if that issue ever arises, you can make sure nobody can say you were smoking marijuana and kids were playing in the same room," he counseled. "You have to be able to demonstrate convincingly that you are providing a safe and secure place for your kids. In places like Idaho, you could lose custody over your kids for something many of us in many parts of the country take for granted."

Getting the kids back is only part of the problem for the Rineharts. Idaho treats even small-time pot possession seriously -- it's one of those place where people still actually do get jail time for it -- and the couple is facing possible felony charges for possessing more than an ounce of trim.

Lindsey Rinehart tabling at the Moscow Hemp Fest just days before it all went down.
"I'm living in an ongoing panic attack," said Lindsey Rinehart. "They update their warrants every five hours, so I check in frequently, and first thing in the morning. Because of my illness, I can't handle physical pressure very well, and I'm afraid they could hurt me when arresting me, so my lawyer has asked that if they do charge me, they just cite me."

All the stress isn't helping, and now, Rinehart can't have her medicine, either.

"I have prescribed meds to suppress my immune system, but those make me really sick. With cannabis, I only had to take it every other day," she explained. "Now, I have to take it every day, and it's so dangerous we have to regularly check my heart, liver, kidney, and eye function. And if I have pain, I'll have to go back to hydrocodone. I'll be going back on those meds I had been able to taper down from with cannabis."

But despite the trials and tribulations, neither the Rineharts nor Sarah Caldwell have been cowed, and their travails have energized supporters as well.

"People are really mad about this and are getting involved," said Rinehart. "We even have people reaching out to help fund Compassionate Idaho.

"People are coming out of the woodwork after hearing our kids got taken because of our activism," said Caldwell. "People are saying they want to help. Education is key here -- a lot of people here believe the Reefer Madness, but this is a non-toxic plant; it can't hurt you."

"The bigger picture is that we don't want this to happen to more families," said Rinehart.

"We're getting more calls than we ever did about child custody," Stroup reiterated. "There are still people being seriously damaged from what's left of marijuana prohibition. Few go to jail for marijuana anymore, but many lose custody of their kids. These repercussions may be more subtle, but they are not insignificant."

The Rineharts and Sarah Caldwell still have to deal with Child Protective Services, and the Rineharts are still waiting to see if they will face criminal marijuana and child endangerment charges. But in the meantime, there are 55,000 signatures to be gathered to get medical marijuana on the ballot and start changing Idaho's reactionary response to marijuana.

Boise, ID
United States
Permission to Reprint: This article is licensed under a modified Creative Commons Attribution license.
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Rinehart Family

I feel so bad for you folks . It sounds as if you are responsible people and for them to argue that you had MJ in the house I could agrue that how many people have guns that really are harmful to children unlocked or say booze layin around for their kids to get at. honestly is that any different?  My goodness this has all the ear marks of gestopo tactics . I cant stand that Children protective services have that kind of power . How in the world can any one come search your home just because some one said you have it in your home thats rediculous. There has to be a illegal search an seizure laws that have been broken here you can not go searchin thru a persons home just because some one said so .. and from what im reading here they dont even know that the kid who got sick even did swallow MJ. they definitly over stepped their bounds on that one. but you are correct in they are going to side steop the rules by using other loop holes in shutting this movement down tactics like hitting people in their wallets ,  urinalysis to get ya fired or deny you insurance  etc etc . Thats down right dirty poop    they know they are losing this needless battle over MJ and are trying every effort to thwart it. We are responsible people that work , pay our taxes etc. They are losing. Dont give up hope keep the faith. I too am in need of MJ for medical reasons i never liked it much as a kid or thru my adult years but lately I tried it and rather that using all the narcotic pills that mess up your body its way better no doubt in my mind. I too was leary that oh ya its just an excuse to get high well I tried it and It definitly works for medical reasons!! I wish you well and know my thoughts are with you and your children. We need to rid this country of the stigma of Reefer Madness and I try to spread the message as much as i can to those who flaunt it in the face of Uncle sam actin all stupid and things you know the type like the kid who brought a 2 pound joint to a ralley come on what government official is going to subscribe to that type of thinking alll that kind of thing says is anarchy and disrespect . But there are going to be a few that just cant think.  We need to portray upstanding individuals .. its all about perspective and respect. You cant win an election with advertising of some biker lookin like a homeless person or criminal . You know what i mean. This is a real important issue for many to the point of living a quality life with out misery and slavery to the pharmecuetical companys. well i said to much already .. Keep the faith  Peace

I could argue that

"I could agrue that how many people have guns that really are harmful to children unlocked or say booze layin around for their kids to get at. honestly is that any different?" Better be careful trying to compare guns to cannabis, the nutjobs with guns will get pissed off.. LOL You know they will argue its a constitutional right to own a gun, that booze is legal, and MJ is illegal. If you cant get them to accept that insane people having guns is a bad idea you certainly will never convince them that irresponsible gun ownership is bad either, even though most of them know better.

Dont let them in!

If the baby sitter allowed the police into the home then search and seizure laws probably were not broken.  If the baby sitter would have refused the police  entrance  than they would have had to come back with a warrant; which may have given them enough time to get the children out of the house and hide illegal substances. 


If police ask to search your home YOU CAN REFUSE as long as they don't have a warrant to search it.  But police will simply not inform people of their rights because then its easier for them to get what they want.  Most people don't know that unless they are being detained or arrested, they can simply leave any interrogation.  

Removing kids from their parents is sick; especially over MJ


The worst part of the criminalisation of drugs,all drugs,is the stress that accompanies the forces of law and order being brought to bear against you.In the case here you have a woman with a serious and wasting disease and children, being subjected to the loss of those children for dubious reasons.She must be under immense stress just coping with her disease.Addicts,the least able people in the world to cope with stress,are subjected to constant and never ending stress when active and even worse stress when convicted.People who are using drugs are often doing it to relieve stress in the first place.How does society deal with this stress?They increase it ten fold.There's something wrong with this picture.


So how legal is it for this babysitter to allow entry onto the property? How legal is it for them to have "convinced" her as well. It's amazing how open we are to drugs manufactured in a lab by for profit organizations which have nothing in mind except their profit margin and yet something natural which has so many possibilities is easily discarded. With twenty or so states having medical/recreational use of cannabis legalized we can only hope that this matter can be resolved through a constitutional convention sometime in the near future. 


This should only solidify  peoples resolve to abolish outdated laws based upon fear and ignorance.  It is obvious the sitter was terrified by police to gain entrance into the home.  Had she refused entrance, they would've had no grounds for a search warrant and would have left.  This happens all the time with police.... " can we come in"...  and people thinking the police would never take advantage are the first to find out the hard way.  Upon entrance they can claim to see or smell " anything " and then proceed to tear the place apart.   Unfortunately this was an attempt to silence the activists and we should all learn from this tragedy:  " Do you have a warrant?"  No?  ... slam door and walk away... 

Police have an image problem and its due to the way they are trained by hypocrites who take oaths.

DdC's picture

Throwing Her Kids into the Foster Care Racket...

Cops Raid Home of Idaho Marijuana Activists; Seize Child

Why Police Officers Lie Under Oath

"Police departments have been rewarded in recent years for the sheer numbers of stops, searches and arrests. In the war on drugs, federal grant programs like the Edward Byrne Memorial Justice Assistance Grant Program have encouraged state and local law enforcement agencies to boost drug arrests in order to compete for millions of dollars in funding. Agencies receive cash rewards for arresting high numbers of people for drug offenses, no matter how minor the offenses or how weak the evidence. Law enforcement has increasingly become a numbers game. And as it has, police officers’ tendency to regard procedural rules as optional and to lie and distort the facts has grown as well. Numerous scandals involving police officers lying or planting drugs — in Tulia, Tex. and Oakland, Calif., for example — have been linked to federally funded drug task forces eager to keep the cash rolling in.

THE pressure to boost arrest numbers is not limited to drug law enforcement. Even where no clear financial incentives exist, the “get tough” movement has warped police culture to such a degree that police chiefs and individual officers feel pressured to meet stop-and-frisk or arrest quotas in order to prove their “productivity.”"

Think of the message being sent to the kids?

Child Protection Racket (raw)
Children taken from mom in pot raid inflame Butte
Michigan Father Killed in Marijuana Child Removal Incident

"Marijuana is one of the least toxic substances
in the whole pharmacopoeia"

~ Professor Lester Grinspoon,
Harvard Medical School, USA

40 Years of Drug War Failure Represented in a Single Chart
Ganja Mothers, Ganja Babies
Happy Mothers Day of Action
Mothers Against the Drug Czar’s War on Kids
Failing American Youth And Taxpayers For Thirty Years

Dare has stranglehold on Drug education!
Communities should have alternatives to using the DARE program, becuause of it's ineffectiveness. There are other programs out there infinitely more effective, but DARE has a stranglehold on drug education. DARE has, you stated contributed to increased drug use, and should be replaced with a more effective program. DARE gets some of it's funding from Pharmaceutical companies.

Treating Behavioral Disorders in Children with Ritalin
Columbian schoolchildren sprayed from above
Three million children receiving stimulant drugs for ADHD

Prenatal Marijuana Exposure and Neonatal Outcomes
    Text of Jamaican Study on Prenatal effects
Ganja 4 ADHD
Ganja 4 PTSD & Depression

"Our youth can not understand why society chooses to criminalize a behavior with so little visible ill effect or adverse social impact... These young people have jumped the fence and found no cliff. And the disrespect for the possession laws fosters a disrespect for laws and the system in general... On top of this is the distinct impression among the youth that some police may use the marihuana laws to arrest people they don't like for other reasons, whether it be their politics, their hair style or their ethnic background." "Federal and state laws (should) be changed to no longer make it a crime to possess marijuana for private use." ; "State laws should make the public use of marijuana a criminal offense punishable by a $100 fine. Under federal law, marijuana smoked in public would merely be subject to seizure." ; President Richard M. Nixon's National Commission on Marihuana and Drug Abuse
"Marihuana: A Signal of Misunderstanding" March 1972

Granny Storm Crow's MMJ List
Jeffrey's Journey
The psychiatric history of Debbie Jeffries' son suggests a complicated, multi- diagnosis developmental disorder. Mrs. Jeffries, after learning about cannabis as a medicine and deciding that, given its limited toxicity, she had little to lose in exploring the possibility that it might be helpful to her son where other, more toxic medicines had failed. The remarkable success she and her son achieved with marijuana is certain to generate controversy.

Medical marijuana: a valuable treatment for autism?

Family uses medical marijuana to treat severely autistic son
Medical marijuana is a controversial treatment option for adults – let alone children. But Jeremy Echols, of Oregon, says that that the drug is helping his autistic – and severely self-destructive – 11-year-old son, Alex.

Autism and Medical Marijuana

The majority of prohibitionists profit on the drug war,
and that is their only motive.

When leaders act contrary to conscience

Policing for Profit
GOP Mogul Behind Drug Rehab 'Torture' Centers
Calvina Fay Prohibition Inc.
Religious drug treatment in Texas
Shame on the Drug Worrier Profiteers
Judges Caging Kids for Cash
NeoConflicts of Interest

"There is a point at which the law becomes immoral and unethical. That point is reached when it becomes a cloak for the cowardice that dares not stand up against blatant violations of justice. A state that supresses all freedom of speech, and which by imposing the most terrible punishments, treats each and every attempt at criticism, however morally justified, and every suggestion for improvement as plotting to high treason, is a state that breaks an unwritten law."
- Kurt Huber,
The head of "White Rose",
killed by the Nazis in 1943

The Heartlessness of Dying for Prohibition

Crimes against Humanity.

Child stealing is a 'crime against humanity'.

evidence and 14th amendment violation needs a aquitle.

Read in this is like my case no evidence and my accuitl just different circumstances. If a blood test or a urine test or a hair filial test was not done to see if there was thc in the system of the children to show as evidence to the court over these kids then there needs to be a dismissal and the children need to be placed back with the parents. And full immunity should be a given to me this sounds like the baby sitter is responsible for getting into the medical pot and leaving it where the kids can get into it I do how ever think the police has threatened the baby sitter but there is no evidence of that just that. How ever if the baby sitter was watching the children and the parents said the had a medical prescription for pot it should be seen that it is evidential the person at the time the kids gotten sick was under the care of the baby sitter it says so in the post she was watching them when they got sick at school. Now the only way to prosecute this case is by the person who was watching the kids or unless she wants to tell a court that the cops threatened her she should also have a conspiracy to commit negligents have her licences removed from babysitting not to be able to watch children and to lose her children when they are born because she is unfit if this happened under the baby sitters care she should also have a federal penalty to 10 years in prison and a 300.00 fine. And a felonies added to background did cps screw up yes they did if there was no proof of the parents involvement if they are guilty it is for the judging of character of the baby sitter who took medical pit and placed it in the kids reach around the house because the baby sitter didn't want to follow the law and you don't know if she was feeding it to the kids just to get her kicks off 14 amendment violation lack of evidence of Oriental involvement as well as a lack of motavation to commit and a lack of evidence to support parents involvement to the parents if it hasent Bennett done before this account took place. From a mother who smoked pot in Washington state and her children who want her to get a new card in another state the child knows it helps and you have to be 21 years of age and have a card to obtain and have the medical marijaunan and knows that she or any one else can touch it with out the card who says you can't teach your kids not to touch it as long as you don't do it in front of them they know. This case is full of holes and swindals
LEAP_Speaker's picture

Even States with MMJ Laws, Patients Not Safe

The Arizona Medical Marijuana Act provides protection for patients in the law, and CPS rules. Yet our grandchildren were taken, and we were denied custody because of our medical marijuana. 

Arizona CPS told us, " prostitution and meth use was a lifestyle", and returned our four grandchildren to their parents in a one room motel.

So even with protections in medical marijuana states, patients, and their children are at risk from over zelous CPS workers 

i am A Canadian and I am a

i am A Canadian and I am a pot smoker and I have along with my partner hep C so  it

is what we need on a daily basis. I can't even imagine what we would do withou t it. 

I wish the people of Idaho the best of luck.. We need to keep fighting for the right to smoke

everywhere! I admire the ones on the front lines of the struggle!!

I'm a 61 yr old with M.S

I'm a 61 yr old with M.S resulting from US govt use of Agent Orange in my old country of Cambodia, bordering Vietnam. I live in constant pain, been put on morphine I really dont want to take and I am now considering the risk of taking medical pot because I want my life back even though illegal where I am. It is sickening to know I have to suffer because major governments will happily poison you but jail you for seeking relief from their war crimes. My prayers with the Idaho three /|\

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