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My Children Were Taken From Me Because I Am An Activist

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Laustin is celebrating his 11th birthday, it is almost 80 degrees outside and sunny at his house in Boise, Idaho and his friends are over for a pool party. They run in and out of the house carrying squirt guns and sodas.

“Can we play basketball at the park across the street?” he asks his mom, Lindsey Rinehart. “No, you have a hoop in the front yard, stay in the front yard,” she says. As he goes to run outside, water from the pool trails on the carpet behind him, she stops him in his tracks. His fair skin is turning as red as his hair.

“Laustin honey, you need more sun block, you are burning up out there. Don’t go back out there until you put on more sun block.” He begrudgingly stops and goes to the bathroom to reapply the sun block.

Left: Elijah, 6 Right: Laustin, 11

As he runs back out the door to play with his friends Lindsey waits to hear it close behind him before turning back to me. “I am really scared, but I can’t show them how scared I am.” She is fighting back tears of betrayal, fear and physical pain trying to get the words out.

She can barely get off the sofa without wincing in pain. “I haven’t used marijuana since they were taken from me.” She is rapidly degenerating since stopping her medical marijuana therapy and reverting back to pharmaceutical drugs. Lindsey suffers from Multiple Sclerosis (MS) and lives in a constant state of pain– that was until she started using medical marijuana.

On April 23rd, while Lindsey and her husband Josh were away in Northern Idaho hiking and boating with Lindsey’s best friend Sarah Caldwell and another trusted friend, police came into their home without a valid warrant, searched their home and remanded theirs and Caldwell’s children into protective custody due to “imminent danger,” deemed by the police.

Josh and Lindsey rarely ever left town together, their sons Laustin, 11, and Elijah, 6, are both young and the Rinehart’s prefer not to leave them with a babysitter.

According to Boise police, a fifth grade friend of Laustin’s ate an unidentified “green leafy substance.” Laustin was called to the principal’s office and accused of bringing marijuana to school and giving it to the child. Boise police have not run a toxicology report on the child nor have they verified the leafy substance as marijuana.

“They kept asking him over and over if there was pot at our house,” says Rinehart “He kept saying no.” Laustin was brought to tears as the school officials questioned him repeatedly, “You have one last chance to tell the truth,” the school principal told him before calling the police.

Laustin knew his mother used a medicine that made her feel better but he didn’t know if she had it in the home or if so, where it would be. Laustin was telling the truth. The police came and took Laustin out of school to search his home.

“They brought our children here [Lindsey’s home] in the back of a cop car as if they were criminals,” says Sarah Caldwell.

Police began a search of Rinehart’s home at 4:18pm on the 23rd, by 7:45pm they had gotten a warrant signed for the search by a judge.

Caldwell’s children would spend the next three days in foster care; Rinehart’s would spend nearly three weeks in foster care.

A close personal friend of the family worked for CPS up until Lindsey’s story made the local news. The story appeared on a website for Idaho state employees, the friend was called into HR shortly after and asked to resign. The source must now remain anonymous for employment reasons.

“It sounds like it is hysteria to me, school hysteria, law enforcement hysteria. I think Laustin was targeted because Lindsey was so much of an advocate,” the source says.

“The Boise police department may consider me a criminal but I am not one,” says Rinehart.


Lindsey and husband Josh

Lindsey has stopped using marijuana while working with CPS and Boise Police to keep custody of her children. In the month since she has discontinued her marijuana treatment her condition has rapidly degenerated.

“Before I used marijuana my right eyebrow and the right corner of my mouth sagged,” she says “It’s gonna go again soon. I can feel my eyebrow getting heavy, I can feel the pressure coming back.”


Rinehart has become very weak and spends her days suffering patches of violent burning pain. “I am fatigued and depressed, my teeth are rapidly degenerating, when the burning is so bad, with a full on attack, it hurts to give my kids hugs because everything hurts right now.” Rinehart’s arms and legs are littered with bruises.

Rinehart was diagnosed with MS six years ago. She had started experiencing vertigo and could not keep food down. She had just gotten married to her husband, Josh, a month and a half prior. She spent a stint in the hospital where she was prescribed Phenergren for her nausea and then Zofran, which was not covered on her insurance without a cancer diagnosis.

An MRI found five lesions in her brain, which led a neurologist to diagnose her with MS. At the time, Josh and Lindsey were trying to have a child together. The doctor warned her if she wanted to get pregnant to do it as soon as possible, the pharmaceuticals used to treat MS are far too toxic for a fetus to be exposed to.

Rinehart suffered a miscarriage before finally getting pregnant with her second son, Elijah. “When you are pregnant with MS, your body is supposed to protect the baby while you are pregnant. You are supposed to be fine up until you give birth and then suffer a gnarly attack.” Rinehart began experiencing attacks early in her second trimester and spent half her pregnancy enduring violent MS attacks.

An “attack” is an exacerbation of MS. Because it is a neurological disorder controlled by the lesions in her brain, any part of her body can be affected at any time. Rinehart has a lesion near her hypothalamus, the part of the brain that controls body temperature.

Whenever she gets too cold her body begins to spasm. She is overcome with itching and burning sensations. “Burning is by far the worse. It feels like being dragged across hot pavement in 90-degree heat by a semi truck. Like your body is just flipping and slamming and burning and being drug down it,” she says.

Her hands are sometimes frozen in a cramping position. “You get ‘souvenirs’ out of these attacks,” she says despondently staring at her hands.

When Lindsey takes pharmaceutical medications, her bills run between $5000-$6,000 monthly.


Rinehart experimented with recreational marijuana use as a teen but did not look at it as a medical necessity until a few years ago. She began experimenting with cannabis treatment and found it to be very effective. “I realized I wasn’t spasming anymore,” she says.

Internet research led to her using it medically to treat her MS. “When I did the research about MS and marijuana I was able to verify all my suspicions about it.” She found studies, all foreign, as there are currently no legal studies in American research institutions. “I learned marijuana doesn’t just treat the symptoms of MS, it actually starts to repair them and slow the progression of the disease.”


Lindsey Rinehart is convinced the removal of her children is a retaliatory effort in response to her activism. “They used my kid to worm their way in, they were trying to scare me and they got the wrong response.”

Rinehart has refused to back down on her activism, although she has chosen to suffer the painful symptoms of her MS in order to keep her children, “They wanted to shut me up really bad. They should know by now I am not going to shut up. They already did the worst they can do to me– they took my children. I kept thinking the whole time; if you are going to take someone why not take me? Leave my kids alone. Why not take me? Why? They didn’t do anything to deserve this,” she says, choking back tears again.

“I had to convince my kid over and over this wasn’t his fault. He carries a lot of guilt and he did nothing wrong,” she says definitely.

Today Lindsey and Josh Rinehart live in legal limbo. The CPS case has been closed but the Boise Police Department has yet to press charges, she believes they are building a criminal case for possession and child endangerment against her. She checks the Ada County site every five hours when it is updated looking for a warrant. She lives in a constant state of paranoia the police will come re arrest her, in front of her children and they will again be dragged into the battle of the political opposition of medical marijuana. She is terrified they have already had so much interaction with police at their age.

The Rineharts have been sent a notice to pay child support for the time their children lived in foster care. They have been placed on the Idaho Central Registry as child abusers for ten years. They are currently fighting this designation, as it would be significantly disruptive to their personal and professional lives.


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