Police Abuse

Police Say Kidnapping Medical Marijuana Activist's 11-Year-Old Son Is for 'the Child's Well-Being'

Shona Banda's son is back in state custody as she awaits criminal charges.

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Yesterday Shona Banda, the Kansas medical marijuana activist whose home was searched after her 11-year-old son challenged anti-pot propaganda at school, failed to regain custody of the boy, who is now under the control of Child Protective Services (CPS). "I am not giving up," Banda said after yesterday's family court hearing. "I will get him, and I am not going to stop until I do."

The Garden City Police Department, which conducted the search of Banda's home, insists that the state-sanctioned kidnapping is in the boy's best interest. "The most important thing here is the child's well-being," said Capt. Randy Ralston. "That is why it is a priority for us, just because of the danger to the child." 

Ralston elaborated on that rationale in a press release posted yesterday. After Banda's son "reported to school officials that his mother and other adults in his residence were avid drug users," Ralston says, the officials called CPS, which in turn contacted the police. The search, based on a warrant obtained that evening, discovered "approximately 1ΒΌ pounds of suspected marijuana," along with "a lab for manufacturing cannabis oil on the kitchen table and kitchen counters."

Banda uses cannabis oil to treat the symptoms of Crohn's disease, a fact that she openly discusses. But Kansas is not one of the 23 states that recognize marijuana as a medicine, so all use of cannabis is equally illegal there. Ralston emphasizes that "the items taken from the residence were within easy reach of the child," although he cites no evidence that the boy was actually endangered by his mother's medicine.

Banda has not been formally accused of any crimes yet. Ralston says the charges could include possession of marijuana with intent to distribute, misdemeanor or felony possession of drug paraphernalia, and child endangerment. Making cannabis oil also seems to qualify as manufacturing a controlled substance, a "drug severity level 1 felony" punishable by a prison sentence as long as 17 years.

The family court judge cited the possibility of felony charges as a reason to remove Banda's son from his home. For a while he was staying with his father, Banda's ex-husband, but CBS News reports that CPS "took the boy back into protective custody" when he "ended [up] back with his mother again." As far as I can tell, the counterintuitive notion that Banda's son is better off in state custody is based on no evidence other than his mother's use of a medicine that is legal in about two dozen states. 

Addendum: As CharlesWT notes in the comments, Banda's supporters are collecting donations for her legal defense.