Parents, Kids and Cannabis: Best Practices for Attorneys

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International Women’s Day: A Celebration of Activism

From Tokin Woman

This year, I’m celebrating International Women’s Day with a tribute to women who make things happen in the human rights realm.

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My week started with the news that California Governor Jerry Brownsaid essentially on “Meet the Press” that “potheads” aren’t productive members of the workforce and in this competitive world we can’t afford to legalize marijuana.

I started designing an ad featuring productive “potheads” like Steve Jobs, Richard Branson, Carl Sagan and Barack Obama. Casting about for a woman to add to the mix, I hit upon the perfect addition in Jennifer Aniston. “I wouldn’t call myself a pothead. I mean, I enjoy it once in a while. There’s nothing wrong with that. Everything in moderation,” Aniston told Rolling Stone in 2001, before it was vogue to make such an admission.

Commenting on anonymous reports in the tabloids about Aniston and then-husband Brad Pitt’s “drug use,” Aniston said, “You see something like that–me and my husband, hooked on drugs. Then you read the story, and it says you smoke pot. It’s not even cocaine or shooting heroin. Pot!”

Obviously, occasional indulgence in marijuana hasn’t impeded Aniston’s career, or harmed her health. Her comments about moderation and the differences between hard and soft drugs are important messages seldom heard in the lock-step ‘just say no’ repression we live under. For this Aniston received the first “Outie” award, presented by the tongue-in-cheekly-named sitewww.VeryImportantPotheads.com.

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It hasn’t been noted here that Susan Sarandon, a champion of human rights, has made some brave admissions of her own (right) in the new issue of AARP.  She’s dating a younger man, dancing the night away, and still finding time to be a mother, a career woman, and a human rights advocate.

I recently saw the documentaryPoliWood, exploring the role of celebrities in politics, and in it Sarandon asked the most intelligent questions of all. For giving us the pot-smoking savant Annie Savoy in Bull Durham, and for acting on her conscious conscience in all aspects of her life, Sarandon is celebrated here today.

I’d like to celebrate the difference one young woman made in her community of Shasta county, California and to acknowledge the work  Kerry Reynolds from KMUD radio is doing with her excellent weekly cannabis news reports and monthly Cannabis Consciousness show. AttorneyJennifer Ani is working tirelessly to protect mothers’ right to raise their children, and another attorney, Kathleen Bryson of Eureka, California, is hosting an environmental forum for marijuana farmers today in Humboldt county. Diane Goldstein has been representing LEAP (Law Enforcement Against Prohibition) across California, and Cheri Sicard of LA NORML Women’s Alliance has been highlighting people serving life sentences for marijuana.

Last but certainly not least, I’d like to mention the original, pioneering female cannabis activist Michelle Aldrich, who was featured in the Washington Post‘s remarkable article and video about the history of marijuana law reform. (The Post also recently reported on the “Mommy Lobby.”) And here’s a special shout-out to the Sacramento NORML Women’s Alliance for their support of this project.

“Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has,” said Margaret Mead (who testified in favor of marijuana legalization in 1969 and said she’d tried it too).

100 Women of Weed

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by Allen St. Pierre, NORML Executive Director

As the issue of cannabis legalization heats up so too does the discussion of women and cannabis use. At this week’s national NORML conference in Portland (Oregon) there is a panel ‘Women, Cannabis and Respect’ hosted by the NORML Women’s Alliance.

Via Jerri Merritt’s very popular TalkLeft: A leading Canadian magazine for marijuana reform, Skunk, has devoted its current issue to “lady legalizers.” Among the features: “The Top 100 Women of Weed.”

Thanks to Skunk for including me in the list. The list is pretty impressive with some names that surprised me: Arianna Huffington, Barbra Streisand, actress Kate Hudson and clothing designer Stella McCartney.

The list is heavier on activists, actresses and singers than attorneys, which makes me even more appreciative to be included. Examples: [See More Below….]

Mary Louise Parker, Alanis Morrisette, Bette Midler, Drew Barrymore, Cameron Diaz, Melissa Etheridge, and Francis McDormand.

Also making the cut: My good pals Anita Thompson (Owl Farm, where I am headed for Labor Day Weekend, rock star editor Shelby Sadler and conservative activist and Denver attorney, Jessica Correy, who is on the same floor as me and the TL kid in our new office digs.

For women who want to get more involved in legalization efforts, I recommend the NORML Women’s Alliance.

The NORML Women’s Alliance is a nonpartisan coalition of prominent, educated, successful, geographical diverse and high-profile professional women who believe that marijuana prohibition is a self-destructive and hypocritical policy that undermines the American family, sends a mixed and false message to our young people, and destroys the cherished principles of personal liberty and local self-government.

Marijuana prohibition makes the difficult job of parenting even more difficult by the state and federal governments not actually controlling marijuana use, cultivation or distribution–notably by American youth.

These diverse women will bring a contemporary approach to the public policy debate, and will proudly represent the interests of modern, mainstream women who believe that the negative consequences of marijuana prohibition far outweigh any repercussions from marijuana consumption itself.

The NORML Women present a core group of national spokeswomen ready to interact with the public and the media on the important issue of marijuana legalization.

Allen St.Pierre, NORML’s outstanding Executive Director, has this to say about the Women’s Alliance:

“The prominent role of women in the effort to end marijuana prohibition is pivotal, necessary, and long overdue. According to recent national opinion polls by Gallup and others, the dramatic rise in the public’s support of marijuana law reform is being driven primarily by an increase in support among America’s women. The NORML Women’s Alliance will bring a contemporary approach to the public policy debate, and will proudly represent the interests of modern, mainstream women who believe that the negative consequences of marijuana prohibition far outweigh any repercussions from marijuana consumption itself.”

NORML’s Women’s Alliance was founded in January, 2010. I am one of its charter members. It’s goals:

  • The NORML Women’s Alliance believes that the fiscal priorities of marijuana prohibition are wasting billions of dollars on a failed policy.
  • The NORML Women’s Alliance believes that marijuana prohibition violates states’ rights, and improperly expands the reach of government into the families and personal lives of otherwise law-abiding citizens.
  • The NORML Women’s Alliance advocates for an open, honest conversation about marijuana with America’s youth that is void of all propaganda and misleading information.
  • The NORML Women’s Alliance endorses the science-based evidence regarding the therapeutic applications of medical marijuana as well as the continuation of research into the subject.
  • The NORML Women’s Alliance strongly opposes the sexual exploitation and objectification of women in pot-culture and business marketing.

You can get additional information about the Women’s Alliance here. If this is your issue, come and join us as we contribute our time and ideals to making a long-held dream for many, particularly those suffering from chronic pain, come true.

As Grace Slick would say, “It’s a new dawn.

From Celebstoner’s write up of the 100 Women of Weed:

Canada’s leading pot magazine has devoted its latest issue to lady legalizers, distaff danksters, gorgeous growers and just about everything female, including cannabis of course. According to Skunk, these are the most “influential women of the cannabis world.” (Note that the list skews heavily towards Canadian activists and actually includes 114 women.)

In alphabetical order:

Carolyn “Mountain Girl” Adams – ex-wife of Jerry Garcia
Rebecca Ambrose – Vancouver Seed Bank

Elena Babescu – Romanian President’s daughter*
Drew Barrymore – actress
Lynn Belle-Isle – Canadian AIDS Society
Joan Bello – author of The Benefits of Marijuana
Sarah Bergeron – activist
Hilary Black – BC Compassion Club Society
Natalie Bouchard – activist
Bong Pixie – Toronto Hash Mob
Dr. Susan Boyd – author

Sarah Cannon – activist
Rielle Capler – Canadians for Safe Access
Tamara Cartwright – Southern Alberta Cannabis Club
Danni Cherish – activist
Loretta Clark – activist
Shelby Chong – comedienne, wife of Tommy Chong
Valerie Corral – WAMM
Jessica Corry – attorney
Cathy Couch – activist
Adrienne Curry – model

Joy Davies – City Councilor, Grand Forks, B.C.
Libby Davies – member of Canadian Parliament
Dragonfly de la Luz – writer
Dora Dempster – Vancouver Medicinal Cannabis
Cameron Diaz – actress
Sarah Diesel – Oaksterdam University
Barbara Douglas – federal medical-cannabis patient
Melanie Dreher – editor
Ann Druyan – NORML board member, wife of Carl Sagan

Barabara Ehrenreich – NORML advisory board member, author
Jodi Emery – Cannabis Culture, wife of Marc Emery
Eva Ends – SAFER
Melissa Etheridge – musician

Anna Faris – actress
Debbie Fagin – Calgary 420
Vycki Fleming – activist
Megan Fox – actress
Toni Fox – activist
Dr. Esther Fride – scientist (RIP)

Ann Genovy – activist
Debby Goldsberry – Berkeley Patients Group
Crystal Guess – activist

Shirley Halperin – author of Pot Culture
Deb Harper – DrugSense
Hemptress December – activist
Jeannie Herer – wife of Jack Herer
Kate Hudson – actress
Ariana Huffington – Huffington Post, DPA honorary board member

Mila Jansen – Ice-o-later
Jasmin – breeder
Debbie Jeffries – activist
Dr. Claudia Jensen – researcher (RIP)

Mari Kane – publisher
Jane Klein – Quick Trading Co., wife of Ed Rosenthal
Lisa Mamakind Kirkland – Skunk

Stephanie Landa – Landa Prison Outreach
Kay Lee – activist
Kathy Lewis – Oregon NORML
Sarah Lovering – MPP
Tara Lyons – Canadian SSDP

Kristen Mann – activist
Alison Margolin – L.A.’s Dopest Attorney
Rita Marley – singer, wife of Bob Marley
Jean Marlowe – WONPR
Madeline Martinez – NORML board member
Mary Lynn Mathre – Patients Out of Time
Stella McCartney – fashion designer, daughter of Paul McCartney
Cher Ford McCollough – WONPR
Francis McDormand – actress
Jeralyn Merritt – attorney
Bette Midler – singer, actress, activist
Cheryl Miller – patient activist (RIP)
Corinne Millet – federal medical-cannabis patient
Alanis Morissette – musician, actress on Weeds
Elvy Musikka – federal medical-cannabis patient
MzJill – breeder

Loretta Nall – Alabama Compassionate Care
Mikki Norris – West Coast Leaf

Mary Louise-Parker – actress, star of Weeds

Puff Mama – medibles baker

Gayle Quin – CBCC

Angel McClarey Raich – medical-cannabis patient
Michelle Rainey – Treating Yourself
Mary Jane “Brownie Mary” Rathbun – medibles baker (RIP)
Judith Renaud – EFSDP
Stephanie Ritch – activist
Vanessa Rivers – model
Danna Rosek – activist
Marjorie Russell – attorney

Pauline Saban – WONPR (RIP)
Shelby Sadler – NORML Women’s Alliance
Sarah Saiger – Bambu
Tian Scherer – model
Nicole Seguin – WhyProhibition
Steph Sherer – ASA
Cheryl Shuman – Beverly Hills Cannabis Club
Sarah Silverman -comedienne, actress
McKenna Stephens – Marijuana Radio
Kristen Stewart – actress
Barbara Streisand – singer, actress
Sarah Strongarm – writer
Nadine Strossen – ACLU
Debbie Stultz-Giffin – MUMM

The WeedGeezs – breeders
Anita Thompson – wife of Hunter S. Thompson
Alice B. Toklas – brownie baker (RIP)
Pebble Tribbett – activist

Jennifer Valley – Stoney Girl Gardens

Watermelon – model, medibles baker
Karen Watson – entrepreneur
Sita Von Windheim – Green Harvest

April Yaroslausky – Edmonton 420

Dr. Lynn Zimmer – sociologist, author of Marijuana Myths, Marijuana Facts (RIP)

* have no idea why she’s on the list

These “women of weed” were omitted from the list:

Mischa Barton – stoner starlet
Ani DiFranco – musician, MPP advisory board member
Dr. Jocelyn Elders – former Surgeon General, MPP advisory board member, DPA honorary board member
Sabrina Fendrick – NORML
Paris Hilton – stoner starlet
Dr. Julie Holland – editor of The Pot Book
Ellen Komp – California NORML
Natasha “Vaporella” Lewin – High Times
Mishka – French activist
Mae “Grandma Marijuana” Nutt – activist (RIP)
Michelle Phillips – singer, MPP advisory board member
Amy Poehler – comedienne, actress
Marsha Rosenbaum – DPA
Susan Sarandon – actress, MPP advisory board member
Deborah Small – Break the Chains

Continue Reading on NORML

How Medical Marijuana Users Are Treated Like Criminals

By Keri Blakinger 

Maria Green was legally growing cannabis for her multiple sclerosis and her husband’s epilepsy. So why did Child Protective Services take their baby away?

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Photo via Huffington Post

Steve Green has epilepsy. His wife, Maria, has multiple sclerosis. Since 2011, they’ve been growing cannabis for medical use.

Everything they do is perfectly legal under state law in Michigan, where the couple resides. Maria is a registered caregiver—meaning that she’s allowed to grow 12 plants per patient—and both are qualifying patients.

Nonetheless, in 2013 Children’s Protective Services came in and removed the couple’s six-month-old unweaned infant, Bree. According to Steve, “Bree was ordered removed from our home because the judge said it was an inherently dangerous situation, that people could break in to steal the marijuana and steal the baby.”

The removal came despite the fact that the Michigan Medical Marijuana Act notes, “A person shall not be denied custody or visitation of a minor for acting in accordance with this act, unless the person’s behavior is such that it creates an unreasonable danger to the minor that can be clearly articulated and substantiated.”

Sara Arnold, the director and co-founder of the Massachusetts-based Family Law and Cannabis Alliance (FLCA), a national nonprofit organization founded in 2013 and dedicated to advocating for medical marijuana parents, said that the Greens’ story is not unique. “It is extremely common,” she said.

She knows a thing or two about it because in addition to being an advocate and policy expert, Arnold is a medical marijuana parent herself.

“I was investigated by CPS for neglect three times for my medical marijuana use,” Arnold said. “My story is common; I was investigated after the birth of my first child after self-disclosure to my prenatal care provider and twice more from mandated reporters.” By law, people in certain professions—or in some states, all citizens—are mandated to report potential or actual neglect and abuse, which specifically includes drug use. She continued, “One of the mandated reporters had never met my child nor seen me parent her and had only read ‘medical marijuana’ in my medical records mentioned by a (supportive) physician; and the other did not want to make the report but believed they were mandated to do so.

“The outcome of these investigations resulted in the allegations not being substantiated and no further action taken by CPS, but investigation by CPS is still an intrusive, traumatic experience for any family—much less three times for the same thing. It is also a huge waste of limited CPS resources that is taking case workers away from real child neglect and abuse.”

Like Arnold, the Greens eventually got their daughter back—but only after six weeks of expensive legal wrangling.

Although the above cases were in Massachusetts and Michigan, those states aren’t cherry-picked examples. Arnold explained that similar situations happen everywhere: “This is a problem throughout the country. Obviously some states are worse than others (like Texas and Florida) but you might find it surprising that even states with mature medical marijuana programs still investigate their patients who are also parents. Even CPS in medical and legal Colorado still regularly and consistently investigate medical marijuana patients.”

Heather Thompson, a molecular biology PhD who works as the deputy director of a nonprofit known as The Elephant Circle, said that often CPS might get involved before the child is even born. Because the Denver-based organization advocates for new mothers, Thompson has become acquainted with the surprising ways in which legalization has played out in Colorado. Instead of creating a more permissive environment, Thompson said that legalization has created among medical professionals a heightened awareness of cannabis and thus some hospitals are now more likely to drug test newborn babies. She said, “That’s where federal law trumps state law—because it is Schedule 1 it is legal for someone at the hospital to test a baby for THC without the parents’ consent or knowledge. Then if they test positive, because it’s for a Schedule 1, then they have to involve CPS.”

She continued, “If a baby tests positive, it’s automatically a charge of neglect and abuse. There is no evidence to say that drug use equals abuse, but because of the climate in Colorado there’s a very punitive attitude toward parents in general who use marijuana.”

Thompson is not the only advocate quick to note the problems caused by conflicting federal and state laws; it’s something Jennifer Ani is very familiar with, too. Ani is a California-based attorney and child welfare specialist who handles cases where legal medical marijuana users and growers find themselves running afoul of CPS.

To some extent, funding is the source of the problem. The Child Abuse Prevention and Treatment Act (CAPTA), was originally enacted in 1974 as a federal law to allocate CPS funding to states that meet certain federal standards. Ani said, “That’s where marijuana comes in. How do you reconcile that with medical marijuana laws?”

After a 2003 revision, CAPTA now requires states to have policies in place to report and address situations in which infants are born “affected” by illegal substance abuse. That can be problematic both because cannabis is still an illegal substance on the federal level and because the line between use and abuse can be unclear.

Ani said that, once the child is born, “Just the fact that a parent is breaking a federal law is not enough to remove a child [in California]. Regardless of the substance, in California, a parent can use any substance they want to as long as they’re not abusing it and that abuse does not affect the child.” Of course, whatever the law says, Ani said that the children of medical marijuana users are still being removed on a regular basis.

“It’s a problem,” Ani said, “because there’s so much ignorance as to the fact that it’s not harmful. Not only is it not harmful but it does not cause serious physical harm, as the law requires.”

In fact, according to Thompson, existing literature doesn’t even support the idea that marijuana use is harmful during pregnancy: “There has been research on pregnancy and marijuana since 1982 and Canada has been doing it since 1978, and there are very few clinical effects of marijuana. It does not seem to affect growth. If you take the literature as a whole, it does not seem to affect babies negatively in a way that can be documented.”

In a sense, Thompson said, it’s like the crack-baby myths of the 1980s and 1990s. The crack-baby myth—the belief that crack cocaine use during pregnancy would cause major damage to the fetus—grew out of a lack of well-designed studies and thus a lack of understanding. Now, medical marijuana users are facing a similar lack of understanding.

As Ani put it, “Families are being separated because of idiocy and incompetence and a failure to understand cannabis.”

As of now, some states—like Michigan—have language that should theoretically protect medical marijuana parents. Unfortunately, it doesn’t quite work out that way. As cited above, the law says that medical marijuana should only affect custody if “the person’s behavior is such that it creates an unreasonable danger to the minor that can be clearly articulated and substantiated.” However, Arnold explained, “There is no definition of ‘unreasonable danger’ or ‘clearly articulated and substantiated.’ What this has often been interpreted to mean (including in Michigan) is that a) investigation is required of any parent found to use marijuana to ensure that there is no reasonable danger and b) that it can be widely subjective, to the point where the marijuana use itself…can simply be a sign of ‘unreasonable danger.’”

Despite the struggles medical marijuana parents are facing, Arnold remains optimistic. She explained that FLCA offers model language for parent-protective initiatives, such as one that has already been proposed in Massachusetts.

“Marijuana reformers,” she said, “are waking up to the fact that parental rights for patients matter, and social workers are waking up to the fact that it shouldn’t be their job to continue the war on marijuana to the detriment of children and families.”

Keri Blakinger is a writer and prison-reform activist living in upstate New York. A staff writer for The Ithaca Times, she has also been published in The Washington Post and Quartz. She last wrote about the drug policies of the 2016 Presidential Candidates.

How to Deal with CPS Workers at Your Door

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Do not let your child become a victim of legal kidnapping. Protect your child from the corruption of Child Protective Services by knowing your rights. If a CPS worker knocks on your door, follow the tips below to ensure the safety your child.

  1. You have the right to remain silent. Should you give up this right anything you say can and will be twisted out of proportion and used against you in a court of law. Stay calm, be polite and ask about the accusations against you. Offer no information whatsoever.
  2. Ask to see a search warrant. According to the fourth amendment of the US constitution you have the right to be secure in you person, houses, papers and effects against unreasonable searches and seizures and they must obtain a warrant. CPS workers are trained to coerce and manipulate their way into your home but they can’t enter without your permission or a court order. It’s not uncommon to for a worker to miss represent a few toys on the floor and a few breakfast dishes in the sink as a messy house and you as an unfit parent.
  3. Sign nothing except upon the advice of an attorney. Remember they are there to gather evidence against you and signing their papers such as service plans and releases of information are their way of getting you to admit guilt or getting your permission to get all the evidence needed to snatch your kid
  4. Document everything. Get a notebook and record times, dates and names of every person you talk to, every phone call you make and every appointment you go to. Collect all of the paperwork you get and organize everything by date. Doing this from the start will help you later on down the line if this goes any further.
  5. If at all possible talk to a lawyer immediately.
  6. Never trust a social worker who is there to investigate you. They will lie, twist your words, fabricate evidence and forge documents to take your child from you.

If you are fighting a CPS case and are in jeopardy of loosing your child, contact Jennifer Ani for your free consultation.

The tips above were taken from “Officer Friendly’s Safety Tips for Dealing with Child Protection Workers.”