Sunday, July 5, 2015

Mother Who Used Medical Marijuana Charged with Five Felonies, Has Child Taken Away

Shona Banda
With a wave of states considering legalization of marijuana for medical reasons, we are presented with the curious case of Shona Banda from Kansas. Suffering from Crohn’s disease and having undergone 17 surgeries, Banda was prescribed fentanyl, a powerful and addictive narcotic to ease her pain. Then while separated from her husband and living in Colorado, Banda discovered that cannabis oil alleviated her discomfort, but also had a healing effect. Despite the risks, she moved back to Kansas where marijuana use is illegal in order to co-parent their 11 year old son.

During a drug education presentation by a police officer, Banda’s son mentioned his mother’s use of marijuana for medicinal purposes. The child was whisked out of class and interrogated by the officer and school officials without Banda's knowledge. When she arrived home, law enforcement officials searched the home and turned up marijuana and drug paraphernalia. Banda was charged with possession with intent to distribute a controlled substance within 1,000 feet of school property, unlawful manufacture of a controlled substance, possession of drug paraphernalia (lab), possession of drug paraphernalia, and child endangerment. In all, she faces five felony charges which could net as much as 30 years in prison.

The case shows why Kansas needs to reform its marijuana laws, at least to allow the medicinal use of marijuana for patients wanting to escape pain. But while the legislature ponders those changes, Kansas officials used extremely poor judgment in their treatment of Ms. Banda. While she appears to have technically violated the law, prosecutors are afforded discretion in charging for situations such as this. The prosecutor could have looked at the circumstances, the reason why Banda was using the banned substance, and declined prosecution or charged her with a much lesser crime. Making a felon out of Ms. Banda doesn’t seem to advance the cause of justice.

The claim that Banda is somehow endangering her child is even more outrageous. Even if Banda’s son witnessed her manufacturing oil out of marijuana leaves, it is unclear how watching that process could have harmed her son. If anything, he might have learned a thing or two about science.
The state of Kansas should not be in the business of breaking up families. Banda’s son should be returned to her home. If any charges are filed, it should be a marijuana possession charge, a misdemeanor. Given her lack of criminal history that should entitle her to a firm slap on the wrist, which given the reason why she used the forbidden weed, is all she deserves.

Note: Banda's husband, Terry, has put up a website to support her cause. She also has an on-line petition with over 150,000 signatures. Finally, Shona’s “Live Free or Die” Facebook page is linked here.

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