There are children every single day separated from their parents for cannabis-related offenses.
Ask anyone who has been in the industry for any significant length of time and they’ll tell you they see and hear it happening all the time. It seems insane when you consider it’s a non-toxic, non-lethal, healing plant.
The images that we have seen of immigrant children herded into chain link cages on concrete floors in hollowed out Walmarts have been gut-wrenching for most. Scenes of parents and kids being separated on our southern border have sparked a major debate in our country about the rule of law, and how far it should reach.
Those who support the actions say that if you break the law in America, you risk being separated from your kids.
Those against these actions argue that the kids should not be punished so severely for what amounts to, at most, a misdemeanor offense by their parent(s).
Those who can’t be bothered by any of it just figure it’ll never happen to them anyway.
There may be a debate to be had between the first two points of view, but this last point could not be further from the truth, especially if you use cannabis in any way.
In 2005, the George W. Bush administration launched a program called “Operation Streamline” which targeted illegal border crossers in Texas and charged and imprisoned them before sending them back the way they came.
The program spread across most of the states along the US border with Mexico and continued throughout the Obama administration.
What Dubya and Obama had in common was that they would very rarely prosecute parents traveling with their children, knowing that kids can’t go to federal prison with their parents and that the separation would be detrimental to all involved.
Fast forward to April of this year and Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced that the Trump administration was tightening the policy – “zero tolerance” was their terminology. They made no attempt to hide the intent of the policy shift, warning immigrant parents that their kids would absolutely be taken from them at the border if they tried to come here illegally.
Sure enough, many of them are now being prosecuted on misdemeanor crimes and sent back south in a very expedited process, but even that process takes days or weeks and in the meantime, they are imprisoned and their children are being shipped to nondescript detention facilities across the country.
But don’t be fooled. This is something that can happen not just to immigrants, but to you as an American citizen, for something as simple as a misdemeanor.
In 2016 alone, 273,539 children were placed in foster care in the United States.
To put it another way, the number of kids separated from their families at the border since April is equal to the number of kids that Child Protective Services (CPS) separates from their families every 3 days in the US.
Of course, there are plenty of cases in that stat where the child’s safety truly was in jeopardy. But every case where the system gets it wrong or reaches too far is one too many and we see if far too often in the cannabis community.
From piss tests to pistol ownership, your rights as a cannabis user are constantly compromised as long as the plant remains illegal at the federal level. As a parent, the consequences of cannabis use can be especially dire.
In 2016 a man named Nathaniel Rudd got a call from a previous fling. She was in the hospital… with their baby. This was news to Nate so he made his way there to see his child. Once he arrived he learned that the mother was not going to be allowed to take the child home so he petitioned for custody. They drug tested him and found cannabis in his system. He was a registered medical marijuana patient in California and offered to quit using cannabis altogether and submit to drug testing but they still denied his request and the newborn went into foster care.
Prop 64, as flawed as it is, did try to add some legal protections for cannabis using parents in California, but the ultimate decision still lies in the hands of judges who can easily point to the federal government and the Controlled Substances Act and make half-baked comparisons between cannabis and heroin.
A grandmother in Maine, using cannabis to ease her back pain, completed all required foster care training and home visits with CPS but was still denied custody of her own grandchildren because of her cannabis use. The kids went into state custody and could be adopted out without a judge ever hearing about the grandmother’s attempts to secure her family.
A nosy neighbor, a disgruntled former employee, a shitty ex… any of these could be one phone call away from making your life into a nightmare as you are suddenly forced to prove your legitimacy as a parent.
This is happening every single day in America; from Maine to Cali to our southern border.
True legalization and cannabis reform must include an overhaul of how our family court system employs sensible legal protections for cannabis using parents and their kids. In the meantime, it is naïve to think that the federal government passing “zero tolerance” policies does not matter and that it won’t ever affect you.