It’s no secret that there has been a proliferation government agencies across the country removing minors and infants from their home, based solely on the fact that a parent is a cannabis consumer, and the false presumption that the presence of marijuana poses a danger. This even occurs in states with a legal medical marijuana program, or where marijuana possession is no longer a criminal offense. Some of these experiences can be incredibly traumatic to the child, as well as the parents, as officers have a tendency to use aggressive and sometimes militaristic tactics while engaging with these families.
NORML receives dozens of calls and emails every month from devastated parents who have lost custody of their children to state agencies, and we remain committed to providing support and resources to those forced into these unfortunate circumstances. In light of such efforts, we are pleased to announce that NORML has recently partnered with the newly formed Family Law and Cannabis Alliance (FLCA), founded by longtime drug reform activists Jess Cochrane and Sara Arnold. The FLCA is an informational clearinghouse that provides educational resources, advocacy information and legal referrals geared toward reformers & affected families on the crossover of marijuana laws & the child protection system.
Sabrina Fendrick, Director of Women’s Outreach said, she is “looking forward to working with the Family Law and Cannabis Alliance to raise awareness about the devastating effects, and sometimes dangerous practice, of child services in removing children from their safe and loving homes for the mere fact a parent is a cannabis consumer. It is time to end this destructive policy, and put an end to marijuana prohibition once and for all.”
Click here for more information on the Family Law and Cannabis Alliance.
[UPDATE: October 30, the family of the young man entrapped by police in this case have filed a lawsuit. Read more here.]
In late 2012, a Riverside County, California police officer infiltrated a local high school, befriended a vulnerable, special needs student and then proceeded to send more than 60 text messages begging the student to buy him weed. The student, who had been diagnosed with autism as well as bipolar disorder, Tourettes, and several anxiety disorders (and noticeably handicapped) became overwhelmed by the pressure, and the desire to keep his only friend. He finally agreed to buy pot for “Dan” (the undercover cop). It took the teenager weeks to find anything, eventually buying half of a joint from from a homeless man downtown.
Then, as reported by Reason Magazine, “On December 11, 2012 armed police officers walked into [the student’s] classroom and arrested him in front of his peers. He was taken to the juvenile detention center, along with the 21 other arrestees, where he was kept for 48 hours. First hand reports claim that the juvenile center was caught off guard by the large number of arrests and that some youths had to sleep on the floor, using toilet paper as pillows.” The child was also expelled from school.
This story is a grotesque example of how our nation’s marijuana policies continue to encourage the use of barbaric and predatory tactics by law enforcement officials. They are financially incentivised to not only target otherwise law abiding citizens, but actively work to manipulate innocent children. Aside from the gross misappropriation of limited police resources, this incident clearly highlights many of the tragic implications marijuana prohibition continues to have on our nation’s youth. Further, zero tolerance policies in schools have proven to be ineffective in the very purpose for which they were originally designed. The practice of engaging in high school undercover drug stings has proven to do nothing to curb teen drug use. It does however, leave the student body traumatized and resentful of law enforcement, making them less likely to report legitimate crimes in the future. It is an egregiously unfair and punitive practice by educational institutions to expel students as punishment for any infraction of a rule, a significant portion of which are for non-violent low level drug violations. How does removing a minor from what is intended to be a stable, nurturing environment do anything to help prepare these individuals to lead responsible productive lives? They are now forced to sit at home with nothing to do but hang out with other expelled peers, or in a juvenile detention center.
One can argue that this all leads back to the financial incentives driving police officers to arrest as many individuals on drug charges as possible. Every year, law enforcement jurisdictions are given federal grants, swat gear, overtime pay and assets based solely on their number of drug arrests. Perhaps it is a result of former Governor Schwarzenegger’s passage of SB 1449 in 2010, which reduced the crime of possession of an ounce of pot from a misdemeanor to an infraction for adults 18 and over. Now, the only way to keep up their arrest rates is by targeting minors – whose charges remain misdemeanors. It is time to stop the madness and put an end to these insane zero-tolerance policies. Our children’s future depends on it.
**The family of the student framed by an undercover officer have set up a fundraiser to support their lawsuit against the school district. Click here for more information.
Marijuana prohibition has taken yet another innocent life. In January 2013, two- year-old Alexandra Hill was taken from her home in Round Rock, Texas because her parents had admitted to smoking pot after their child had gone to bed. As a result, she was placed with an abusive foster mother, who subsequently beat her to death.
According to her father, Joshua Hill, who spoke with KVUE, a local ABC affiliate, “She would come to visitation with bruises on her, and mold and mildew in her bag. It got to a point where [he] actually told CPS that they would have to have [him] arrested because [he] wouldn’t let her go back.” A few days later, the Hill family got a call informing them that their daughter was in a coma, and they needed to get to the hospital right away. Two days after that, Alex was taken off life support. Up until she was snatched from her family in January, the 2 year old had never been sick or gone to the hospital.
“When a parent who responsibly consumes marijuana after hours is seen as neglectful in comparison to a parent who responsibly enjoys a glass of wine, then the system isn’t just broken, it’s deadly,” said Sabrina Fendrick, Director of Women’s Outreach at NORML. Little Alex’s fate was sealed the minute the Department of Family and Protective Services (DFPS) determined that such behavior qualifies as “neglectful supervision,” and put her with a foster mother who had not been given a proper background check.
This is just one more tragic casualty of marijuana prohibition. However, the practice of child snatching by CPS from marijuana-using parents is by no means unique to this story. Current policy gives state agencies the right to legally kidnap minors and infants from their loving parents’ home (simply for the fact that they are cannabis consumers), and place them in an unknown, possibly dangerous or truly neglectful environment. Hundreds of similar CPS cases pop up around the country every year. Only when the government changes its view, and policies on marijuana can we truly protect the rights and integrity of good parents who responsibly consume cannabis after hours and out of their child’s view. It’s time for CPS, the state of Texas and the federal government to step up, take responsibility for all of the damage they have caused, and commit to ending this disastrous and fatal policy.
A very informative news piece from LifeHealthPro provides an excellent overview of life insurance companies and their current policies regarding offering coverage to cannabis consumers–be them recreational consumers or medical patients:
Ratings for the Marijuana User
Marijuana usage is not viewed as other drugs such as cocaine, for example. Testing positive for THC will not lead to a flat rejection of a life insurance policy. However, the use of this substance can result in receiving a cigarette smoker’s rates, which are substantially higher than those of a non-smoker.
Life insurance classifications for a marijuana user are guidelines and are not set in stone; they can change at any time per the company consideration. Also other health conditions could change consideration.
- American General: Smoking marijuana more than twice monthly could result in the rates of a smoker with the possibility of a table rating. Smoking two times per month will set the rating as a standard non-smoker. Applicants who smoke two times a year or less could be rated as a preferred best non-smoker.
- Banner Life: Applicants could be considered a standard smoker with occasional use. They could be rated as a substandard table B smoker with daily use.
- Columbus Life: Applicants over 25 years old who smoke pot experimentally to intermittently might get standard smoker rates. Moderate use could be a table 2 rating. Heavy use will be declined. Other drug use will also be a factor.
- Fidelity: A standard smoker classification will be given if there is any marijuana use in the past 12 months. However, an applicant be classified as a sub-standard smoker if medical marijuana is prescribed.
- Genworth Financial: Applicants who use marijuana eight times a month or less could be classified as a standard smoker. Users who smoke more than eight times may be considered a sub-standard smoker. Also, this company does not recognize prescription use of marijuana.
- ING Reliastar: If marijuana is prescribed, users could be classified as a Table 4 Smoker. With daily use, they could be classified as a preferred smoker.
- Lincoln Benefit: If a prescription is shown on one’s medical records and usage is stated on the application, applicants could be classified as a non-smoker. Occasional users without a prescription can be classified as a standard smoker.
- Lincoln National: Applicants can use marijuana up to two times per week and be classified as a standard non-smoker. Usage of 3-4 times a week will result in a sub-standard Table B non-smoker rating. Applicants will be declined if they use marijuana more than four times per week.
- Met Life: Applicants who otherwise would merit a preferred plus rating and uses marijuana occasionally (once a month to once a week) could get a preferred plus non-smoker rating. (More than once a week is equivalent to a smoker’s rate.) Daily use could be a table 4 rating. Heavy users could be declined.
- Mutual of Omaha: Applicants will rate as a standard nons-moker with up to weekly use. If lab results indicate more frequent usage, then smoker rates will apply.
- Minnesota Life: Applicants who test positive for THC could be given a smoker table 3 rating. Occasional or recreational users will be given preferred non-smoker rates but will have to test negative for THC.
- North American: Applicants over 25 years old who use marijuana 3-8 times per month could be rated a standard smoker. If they use 8-16 times a month they could be rated as high as a table 2 smoker. More than 16 times a month will be declined.
- Protective Life: Marijuana use could result in a standard smoker rating.
- Prudential Financial: Using marijuana up to two times per month and testing negative for THC will qualify applicants as a standard plus non-smoker. A Table B non-smoker (even with THC positive lab tests) rating will be applied if usage is up to four times per week. Usage over four times weekly will be declined.
- Transamerica - Marijuana smokers could be considered a standard smoker rate class with no other health issues.
Final advice from LifeHealthPro: Applicants who already have a life insurance policy in force may be paying unnecessarily high rates. Each company’s insurance underwriters view the use of marijuana differently. Don’t let your clients pay high life insurance premiums if less expensive alternatives are available.
Read entire article @ LifeHealthPro
The American Civil Liberties Union released a new report affirming NORML’s historic data that minorities are disproportionately arrested (and most certainly prosecuted and, worse, incarcerated) at a rate four times higher than whites for cannabis (based on per capita cannabis use rates).
In some midwest states–like Illinois, Iowa and Minnesota–minorities are arrested at rates eight times higher than whites.
ACLU’s report ‘The War On Marijuana/In Black And White‘ is a fascinating and well researched multimedia presentation about why America’s failed seventy-five year-old social experiment known as ‘Cannabis Prohibition’ must end, and new public policies created that reflect today’s public sentiment in favor of such reforms.