A Kansas mom lost her 11-year-old child and now faces 30 years in prison, all for using medical marijuana that would be legal almost anywhere else in America.
Officials with Kansas Child Protective Services took Shona Banda’s son in March after learning that she uses medical cannabis to treat severe Crohn’s disease. CPS workers determined her medicine put her child at risk.
Medical marijuana is legal for at least limited uses in 38 states. But it remains illegal in the other 12 states, from Texas and Oklahoma to Pennsylvania and Ohio. And while the drug is decriminalized in a few of those places, in others penalties can be extreme.
Unfortunately, prohibition is dying more slowly in some places than in others. Large swaths of the American West and the Midwest still ban cannabis for any use, as do a handful of Mid-Atlantic states.
Suffering patients treated as criminals
Kansas is a proud member of that club, and attitudes toward medical marijuana are hostile at best. Attempts to remove children from their pot-smoking parents have mostly met with success, and even the most suffering patients are treated as criminal pariahs.
Following the visits from CPS, Banda was charged with five felonies, including two paraphernalia possession counts. The remaining charges include possession of marijuana with intent to distribute it and manufacturing hash oil. Banda’s lawyer said she would turn herself in June 15.
She now faces an especially stiff sentence – a maximum of 30 years in prison – in large part because she was busted with hash oil. Kansas treats this concentrated form of cannabis, frequently used as medication, more like crack cocaine than traditional marijuana.
Not an isolated incident
Banda isn’t the only sick mother targeted by conservative drug-war hawks in recent weeks. In early June, a Kansas judge told Arizona resident Amber Thurmond she would lose her child if she didn’t stop using medical cannabis and return to Kansas.
Thurmond, originally of Hays, Kansas, moved to Arizona so she could treat her severe epilepsy and get back on her feet. She left her 9-year-old daughter with her brother, a local police officer, for one semester and took a job at an Arizona medical cannabis dispensary.
Kansas authorities reacted by charging Thurmond with physical, mental, and emotional neglect. They took her daughter and put her in foster care, though she was ultimately placed with the same uncle.
Marijuana advocates say it’s s disturbing trend that highlights the need to change the law even in deep-red states such as Kansas.
“These mothers are being forced to choose between their health and their ability to be a parent,” said Sarah Swain, the Kansas lawyer representing both Thurmond and Banda. “And there really is no choice to be made. We can’t be mothers if we’re so sick that we’re bedridden, or if we aren’t alive.”