Kansas Medical Marijuana Patient Faces Years in Prison

After losing custody of her son, Shona Banda may now lose her freedom.



Shona Banda, the Kansas medical marijuana activist who lost custody of her 11-year-old son in April after police found cannabis in her home, now faces criminal charges that could send her to prison for years. On Friday the Finney County attorney, Susan Richmeier, announced that she is charging Banda, whose home was searched after her son dared to question anti-pot propaganda passed off as "drug education" at his school, with five crimes: child endangerment, possession of drug paraphernalia (two counts), manufacture of a controlled substance (the cannabis oil she used to treat her Crohn's disease), and possession of marijuana with intent to distribute within 1,000 feet of school property. All five charges are related to Banda's medical use of marijuana, which is allowed in 23 states but not Kansas.

Distribution of marijuana within a school zone carries a mandatory minimum sentence of four years; the maximum penalty is seven years. The manufacturing charge is punishable by up to 17 years in prison. Child endangerment can be charged as a misdemeanor or a felony; likewise the paraphernalia charges. Citing Banda's attorney, The Washington Post reports that all five charges are felonies, which means she could face "a maximum of 30 years in prison." By contrast, The Garden City Telegram says only three of the charges are felonies and "Banda faces a potential sentence of 138 to 204 months," the same range cited by the Associated Press. Whether the maximum is 30 years or a mere 17, Banda is unlikely to serve that long. But a four-year sentence is a very real possibility, given the mandatory minimum for possession with intent to distribute near a school.

Mind you, there does not appear to be any evidence that Banda was selling pot to schoolkids, or that her son, who is now living with her ex-husband, suffered as a result of his proximity to her medicine. Garden City police claimed "the items taken from the residence"—including "approximately 1¼ pounds of suspected marijuana," along with "a lab for manufacturing cannabis oil on the kitchen table and kitchen counters"—were "within easy reach of the child." But Banda argues that marijuana made her a better parent by relieving her symptoms. "I spent years raising my children from a couch, not being able to move much," she told the Post. "I wasn't able to be a proper mother when I was sick. And now I'm a fantastic mother."