Defense Attorney Lauren K. Johnson won a major court victory for parents who legally use marijuana for medical purposes last week in Los Angeles. In the case of Drake A. (case # B236769), Division Three of the Second Appellate District, California Court of Appeal ruled on December 5, 2012 that there was no evidence showing that the defendant, a father, is a substance abuser for simply being a legal medical marijuana patient. The court confirmed that while parents who abuse drugs can lose custody of their children, a parent who uses marijuana for medical reasons, with a doctor’s approval, isn’t necessarily a drug abuser.
The father, “Paul M.” was placed under DCFS (Department of Children and Family Services) supervision after he testified in an October 2011 hearing that he used medical marijuana about four times a week for knee pain. During that same hearing, he also stated that he never medicates in front of his children, nor is he under the influence while they are in his care. DCFS supervision requires drug counseling, parenting classes and random drug testing. During subsequent drug screenings the father tested positive for marijuana, and negative for all other drugs. As a result, the Superior Court of Los Angeles ruled that the child was to become a “dependent of the court based on the trial court’s finding that [the] father’s usage of medical marijuana placed the child at substantial risk of serious physical harm or illness…”.
“Paul M.” appealed the former court’s ruling, which was challenged in the Second Appellate District of California. The Appellate court subsequently ruled in favor of reversing the Superior court’s judgment. The official ruling stated “[that the] DCFS failed to show that [the] father was unable to provide regular care for Drake [the minor child at issue] due to father’s substance abuse. Both DCFS and the trial court apparently confused the meanings of the terms ‘substance use’ and ‘substance abuse’.”
Johnson issued a press release noting that this is the first case to distinguish between marijuana use and abuse with regards to child protection laws. “In overturning a Los Angeles Superior Court ruling against the plaintiff, Los Angeles County Department of Children and Family Services, the Appellate Court said the ‘mere usage of drugs,’ including marijuana, is not the same as substance abuse that can affect child custody, as alleged in this case by the lower court.” She went on to say, “The ruling illustrates a growing recognition of the legitimate use of medical marijuana in this state and other states. We want kids to be safe, but we also want parents to be able to use legally prescribed medications when children appear not to be at demonstrated risk of harm.”
This has been a pervasive issue in California, as well as other medical marijuana states. Legal patients have lost custody of their children and been forced to turn their children over to a juvenile protection agency. The NORML Women’s Alliance has been working hard to bring this issue to the forefront. NORML Women’s Alliance Director Sabrina Fendrick issued the following statement; “This ruling is a small victory in our fight for legal marijuana patients’ parental rights. We hope that future judicial hearings, as well as child protection agencies will utilize this judgment and adopt new policies that reflect the Appellate court’s ruling.”
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This week: Detroit is approved to vote on marijuana decriminalization measure and a new study shows medical marijuana legalization does not increase teen drug use.
Also, another must watch video from this past Wednesday’s DEA Oversight Committee Hearing. This time it is Rep. Steve Cohen (D-TN) putting the DEA Chief Administrator’s feet to the fire:
[In response to the AP article “Easing of State Marijuana Laws Poses Challenge for Parents”]
No one can deny that the number one goal of a parent is for his or her children to grow up healthy, and be able to make responsible decisions about everything from their friendships and lifestyle, to their safety. Parents do this by sitting down and having open honest conversations about issues that will inevitably affect them in the future.
Education gives children the tools and understanding to help them cope with the challenges they have already experienced, and will continue to face further down the road. Creating a government regulated system for marijuana legalization, which will include everything from age limits to promotional and advertising restrictions (and obviously impaired driving regulations), will actually help parents address this issue with their kids. Several studies have already shown that states with regulated marijuana programs have not seen an increase in teen use. Some have even seen a decrease in pot use among their youth population.
The prohibition of marijuana sends the message “marijuana is morally wrong” and implies that there is no such thing as a responsible marijuana consumer. This ignorant policy improperly allows the government to interfere in the parent’s job of teaching their kids about moderation and responsibility. Scare tactics and rhetoric are disingenuous and do not help children understand the realities of the world we live in.
It is socially acceptable for parents, alcohol distributors, and even the government to teach children about safe drinking practices (with a full understanding that alcohol is directly responsible for thousands of deaths every year), and the state regulation of marijuana will allow parents and educators do the same for the plant (whose non-lethal and relatively harmless side effects inevitably make the latter substance the safer choice).
We did not have to outlaw cigarettes to reduce the use among minors. A policy of education and regulation (not prohibition) has created an environment in which cigarette usage has fallen to an all time low. The same goes for alcohol. A sustained and concerted effort on responsible drinking practices by the government, alcohol companies and educational institutions have driven teen alcohol use down to a record low as well, according to the 2011 Monitoring the Future Survey. Age restrictions, government regulation and education have proven to be one of the most effective elements in reducing youth access to adult-only recreational substances. None of these controls apply to marijuana.
As it currently stands, marijuana is illegal and sold on the black market to anyone willing to pay for it. Drug dealers don’t ID. Today, young people report that they have easier access to illicit marijuana than to legal beer or cigarettes. This is because the latter is legally limited to adults only.
Children need accurate information to make informed decisions. They need to be educated on how consuming marijuana can effect their body’s development specifically, and how to reduce any harms associated with its use – as well as how to distinguish between use and abuse. Just as it is socially acceptable for parents to speak with their children openly about their use of alcohol, with an emphasis on that fact that it is only appropriate for adults in moderation, the legalization of marijuana will allow parents to openly discuss their (possible) past or current use and be able to objectively and rationally speak to their children about pot. The controlled regulation of marijuana will send a message of moderation and responsible use. It will also undercut the black market, which in turn will reduce teen access. It’s as simple as that, and it’s a win-win for everybody.
Mother’s Day: How the Drug War Hurts Families
NORML Women’s Alliance, Law Enforcement Against Prohibition and other Reform Organizations Team Up for: “Cops & Moms Week of Action”
Washington DC – Mothers from around the country will join with law enforcement and students at the National Press Club on May 2nd in honor of Mother’s Day. The press conference will launch a new coalition of national organizations that will represent mothers, police and students that seek to finally end the disastrous drug war. The NORML Women’s Alliance, Law Enforcement Against Prohibition, Student for Sensible Drug Policy and others will share powerful stories of losing loved ones to the criminal justice system, and the social repercussions of prohibition. The coalition will highlight a series of activities around the country timed to Mother’s Day.
Sabrina Fendrick, Coordinator for the NORML Women’s Alliance gave the following statement:
“‘Mother’s Day’ was derived out of an intensely political effort to organize women on both sides of the Mason-Dixon Line against the Civil War. The reason mothers were made the vehicle was because they were the ones whose children were dying in that war. Women were also largely responsible for ending alcohol prohibition. This is more than just a ‘greeting-card holiday,’ this is the beginning of an institutional change in our society. The government’s war on drugs is unacceptable. For our children’s sake, the concerned mothers of the world are being called on to demand the implementation of a rational, responsible, reality-based drug and marijuana policy.”
Leaders of the campaign who will be speaking at the press conference include former Maryland narcotics cop and Executive Director of Law Enforcement Against Prohibition (LEAP), Neill Franklin; Vice-Chair of the NORML Women’s Alliance and proud mother, Diane Fornbacher; Aaron Houston, Executive Director of Students for Sensible Drug Policy (SSDP), Kathie Kane-Willis a Chicago social worker whose son died from an overdose two years ago; Joy Strickland, CEO of Mothers Against Teen Violence, Nina Graves (Delaware), a mother and former assistant chief of police and others. Moms United to End the Drug War will also be unveiling a “Moms Bill of Rights.”
What: Mother’s Day press conference announcing coalition between moms, cops and students against the war on drugs. Followed by a nationwide “Cops & Moms Week of Action”.
When: May 2, 2012 at 10 a.m.
Where: National Press Club – Washington, D.C.
Who: NORML Women’s Alliance, Law Enforcement Against Prohibition, Students for Sensible Drug Policy, Moms United to End the Drug War, and the Drug Policy Alliance.
“A small body of determined spirits fired by an unquenchable faith in their mission can alter the course of history” -Gandhi
Patricia Spottedcrow, a mother and first time offender from Oklahoma, was originally sentenced to 12 years behind bars for selling $30 worth of marijuana. For months, the NORML Women’s Alliance, and other organizations have been bringing attention to one of the most egregious cases of the war on drugs in recent history. After several outreach campaigns to local law enforcement and elected officials, and especially a strong grassroots effort spearheading my outraged mothers and reformers alike, the Oklahoma Pardon and Parole Board have recommended early parole for Spottedcrow. While this is a small victory in the battle against marijuana prohibition, it is significant in showing that grassroots efforts trult can make a significant difference in the lives of those adversely impacted by the government’s war on drugs.
OKLAHOMA CITY – Grassroots support may evolve into early parole for a Kingfisher mother who was handed a strict prison sentence for a first-time offense of selling $31 worth of marijuana.
After her story was published in the Tulsa World’s series on Women in Prison in 2011, a groundswell of support emerged. In October, a Kingfisher County judge reduced her sentence by four years.
Spottedcrow’s advocates expressed concern for possible racial bias, disparate sentences for drug crimes, Oklahoma’s No. 1 female incarceration rate per capita and the effects on children growing up with incarcerated parents.
Because children were in Spottedcrow’s home when she was arrested, a charge of possession of a dangerous substance in the presence of a minor was added. Her mother, Delita Starr, was also charged with the crime but was given a 30-year suspended sentence so she could care for Spottedcrow’s four children while their mother was incarcerated.
Board member Marc Dreyer, senior pastor at Tulsa’s Memorial Baptist Church, was instrumental in getting Spottedcrow’s case early consideration.
He said he requested to meet Spottedcrow while visiting Eddie Warrior Correctional Center in Taft a few months ago, after reading about her case in the Tulsa World.
“Based on quantity of drugs involved and the desperation of her situation at the time, it was my view that she ought to have consideration by the board for parole, as there were some extenuating circumstances,” Dreyer said. He requested that her case be moved to the board’s April hearing.
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The NORML Women’s Alliance would like to thank everyone who took the time to make their voice heard against this injustice. Together, we will prevail. Support the NORML Women’s Alliance with a donation by clicking the link below: