One of the features of the so-called war on drugs was that it targeted and punished crack cocaine users (who were mostly poor black people in the inner cities) much more severely than powdered cocaine users (who were usually more affluent white suburbanites). These laws also harshly punished people who just used marijuana for recreational purposes almost like they were hardcore drug users and pushers, and we ended up punishing large numbers of people who were no danger to society, not to mention subjecting entire communities to invasive random searches.
Shona Banda and her 11-year old son had lived in Colorado, a state that has a pretty relaxed view towards marijuana. That state allows the possession of small amounts of the drug for recreation and also allows it to be used for medicinal purposes. In fact she had treated her Crohn’s disease with cannabis oil.
The two of them then moved one state to the east to Kansas, which happens to be one of the most reactionary, if not to say downright mean and crazy, states in the nation, and trouble began almost immediately when her son, who was pretty knowledgeable on the subject of marijuana because of his awareness of his mother’s use, challenged some of the anti-marijuana messages put out in his drug education classes in his new school.
Barry Donegan quotes Shona Banda as to what happened next:
“Well, they had that drug education class at school that was just conducted by the counselors… They pulled my son out of school at about 1:40 in the afternoon and interrogated him. Police showed up at my house at 3… I let them know that they weren’t allowed in my home without a warrant… I didn’t believe you could get a warrant off of something a child says in school.” Banda continued, “We waited from 3 o’clock until 6 o’clock. They got a warrant at 6 o’clock at night and executed a warrant into my home. My husband and I are separated, and neither parent was contacted by authorities before [our son] was taken and questioned.”
Banda then described the actions that the State of Kansas began to take in an effort to take her son from her, “On the 24th, he was taken into custody. That was on a Tuesday. He was taken out of town Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday. Friday we had a temporary hearing… and temporary custody was granted to my ex. Now the only reason why temporary custody was granted to my ex is because the judge said something to the effect that the amount of cannabis found in my home was going to possibly be felony charges and it was pointless letting the child return home to his mother.” She believes that the state is trying to take her son away and said, “The state is trying to deem it to where [Shona’s ex-husband] is not fit and I’m not fit and they’re trying to take custody of our child.”
As Radley Balko states:
The absurdity here of course is that a woman could lose her custody of her child for therapeutically using a drug that’s legal for recreational use an hour to the west. It seems safe to say that the amount of the drug she had in her home was an amount consistent with personal use. (If she had been distributing, she’d almost certainly have been charged by now.)
This boy was defending his mother’s use of a drug that helps her deal with an awful condition. Because he stuck up for his mother, the state arrested her and ripped him away from her. Even if he is eventually returned to his mother (as he ought to be), the school, the town, and the state of Kansas have already done a lot more damage to this kid than Banda’s use of pot to treat her Crohn’s disease ever could.
Banda did in fact lose custody of her son and as of May 11 had not got him back. But her treatment by the Kansas authorities has created a national and even global outcry. Her case may result in changes to the crazy patchwork of harsh drug laws that are the result of the so-called war on drugs that have filled our prisons with non-violent offenders.
Kansas. Need I say more?