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Magistrate Snatches Newborn From Mother Who Used Cannabis Tea for Pain Relief

County social workers said separating the newborn from her parents would be harmful.

WJWWJWBefore she gave birth to her daughter, Nova, at Cleveland's Fairview Hospital on September 26, Hollie Sanford used cannabis tea to relieve severe sciatic nerve pain. Her research convinced her marijuana was a safer choice than the painkillers she had been prescribed, and she may be right about that. While there's little evidence that consuming marijuana during pregancy harms the fetus, the Food and Drug Administration puts opioids such as hydrocodone and oxycodone in Category C, meaning "animal reproduction studies have shown an adverse effect on the fetus and there are no adequate and well-controlled studies in humans," although "potential benefits may warrant use of the drug in pregnant women despite potential risks." But Cuyahoga County Juvenile Court Magistrate Eleanore Hilow, who ordered Nova's separation from her parents because the baby and her mother tested positive for a marijuana metabolite at the hospital, does not seem interested in what science shows about cannabis and pregnancy.

The Cleveland Plain Dealer reports that Hilow rejected the recommendation of county social workers, who are usually the bad guys in cases like this. Cuyahoga County Children & Family Services (CFS) asked for "protective supervision," meaning a case worker would keep an eye on Sanford and her daughter to make sure the baby was in no danger. But the county said separating Nova from her parents would be harmful to the newborn. 

"There is no need to remove this child from her parents in order to protect her," an assistant county prosecutor wrote in an October 23 motion. "At this time, removal would only serve to disrupt the bond the child would develop with her parents during this important period in her life...Rather than protecting the child, removal may be more harmful to her both in the present and in the future."

Hilow was unmoved by that argument. Fortunately, Sanford's cousin agreed to take care of Nova to keep her from being placed with strangers in a foster home, and Sanford is allowed to visit Nova at her cousin's house. "It's outrageous," attorney Joseph Jacobs, who represents Sanford and her husband, Daniel, told The Plain Dealer. "The decision has no basis in law or science. There was no harm done to this child other than the removal from her mom and dad."

Jacobs told WJW, the Fox station in Cleveland, that the hospital should not even have performed the drug tests, since the baby was born "very healthy and alert," the Sanfords did not consent to testing, and they are not on public assistance or covered by Medicaid, programs that require drug screening. Nova's urine tested negative for marijuana, but her first stool tested positive.  

A CFS spokeswoman said Magistrate Hilow, who works under the supervision of Judge Thomas F. O'Malley, has made a habit of ignoring the agency's recommendations. "We are disappointed that this jurist regularly makes rulings disregarding the agency's professional opinion and the opinions of other professionals in the courtroom, include guardians ad litem and other child welfare experts," she said. "We will continue to work with this family, which is committed to reunification."

Sanford said she used marijuana to relieve morning sickness and other symptoms when she was pregnant with her son, Logan, who is almost 2. Like Nova, he tested positive for marijuana at birth, resulting in a call to CFS, but no one attempted to kidnap him. "I hope if marijuana is legalized people will open their eyes a little more," said Sanford, who is rooting for the marijuana initiative on Ohio's ballot today.

Update: In a follow-up story, The Plain Dealer reports that Hilow's unilateral decisions to remove children from their parents' custody are "often appealed and overturned." One case in which Hilow was overruled by an appeals court involved a father who was caught with marijuana at his home. The therapist treating the man's son nevertheless recommended that he live with his father. Hilow was so outraged by that testimony that she tried to replace the therapist. The appeals court "found that the boy should live with the father and that the therapist should continue to treat him."

[Thanks to CharlesWT for the tip.]

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  • d3x / dt3||

    Apparently someone spurned Magistrate Hilow's advances.

  • MichaelL||

    This is just another example of judges deciding they have more ability to practice other people's professions! The question is, what can the public do? The attempt to pass a, flawed, cannabis law will, no doubt, fuel this lady's abuse of people, who use a preferred intoxicant. That substance being safer than the alcohol, that judges like this would have no problem with. When are we going to kick arrogant people, like this, out of the system? She, obviously, has no feeling for the child when she tears it from her parents, likely causing a future doomed to be fraught with psychiatric instability! Again, the actions of the law "just us" system are much worse than the actual damage caused by the illegal substance!

  • AlmightyJB||

    First, woodchip all the lawyers.

  • ||

    then profit?

  • AlmightyJB||

    You forgot step 2 : something something

  • Vulgar Madman||

    Step 2: Fertilize your marijuana.

  • mashed potatoes||

    "Sanfords did not consent to testing, and they are not on public assistance or covered by Medicaid, programs that require drug screening. Nova's urine tested negative for marijuana, but her first stool tested positive. "

    They collect her shit without her knowledge? Or is this normally collected during births for other tests? (No kids)

  • ||

    They test every mother and newborn in Texas and California for a slew of things, drugs being a part of that list. Any positive is immediate grounds for retesting and those results are sent to the state for retention for a number of years to be compared with mandatory tests later...but I believe those are only for diseases.

  • ||

    Magistrate. It is right there in her title.

    Quit your bitchin'.

  • Cyto||

    At least our tax dollars are doing something!

    Meanwhile, I was hit in a hit-and-run accident yesterday. I got the tag number and raised 911 on the cell. I gave the dispatcher the play by play for a few blocks, letting them know where they could find the guy.

    Within 2 minutes the nearest cruiser picked up the pursuit. Nah, just kidding. I peeled back to grab lunch at the drive-through while they transferred me to the non-emergency regional dispatch. I arranged to meet a patrolman to file a report. 90 minutes later I called back and learned that they had closed out the call for some reason. So I decided to pick up an accident report form for the insurance claim later.

    But at least we are burning calories on the right things. Making sure that nobody ever smokes any pot is definitely worth the hundreds of millions we spend on it, plus all of the wrecked lives left in the wake. So what if 30 percent of our motorists down here are uninsured and there aren't any resources to change that? We'll just shut up and pay the outrageous insurance premiums and say "thank you". And to all of those who would say they need to be able to protect themselves because the police don't show up while the crime is being committed, well, you can shut up too. They are really, really busy with other stuff.

  • sarcasmic||

    Well, yeah. They're serving and protecting The Public. The Public is represented by social workers and such, so those people get priority. Anyone who actually calls the police in need of their services is distracting them from serving and protecting The Public. After all, The Public is everyone except you.

  • ||

  • Fist of Etiquette||

    You don't get to be magistrate without some serious Solomonic insight. DRUGS = BAD

  • ||

    Sciatica is one of the worst things in the word. May this judge spend the rest of her life with excruciating shooting leg pain and may her children not bother to visit her on her deathbed.

  • Juvenile Bluster||

    But as one of our betters, she's not subject to the same rules as we are, and thus wouldn't have an issue using a drug she'd throw someone else in jail for.

  • Timon 19||

    Sciatica does indeed suck. I'm at the tingling-sole-of-foot-when-beginning-walking stage, with pain in the left ass cheek and, by the end of the day, a combination of horrible pain and muscle fatigue in the hamstring area.

    Standing for any length of time is excruciating. Walking keeps it manageable.

  • Jimbo||

    OMG! You mean it actually reproduced?

  • ||

    Also, I dig this chick's awesomely white trash Ohio tat.

  • ||

    You like that tat? Check out some of these: http://www.buzzfeed.com/mjkieb.....lmk1AddjRq

    Might be the greatest thing I've ever seen.

  • ||

    Shit. "most fucking retarded" autocorrected to "greatest".

  • pan fried wylie||

    there's times when i'd say they're synonymous.

  • ||

    Jim Tressell looks disappointed. How deliciously appropriate.

  • ||

    #3 is the bestest. I had no idea you could capture a surprised look on the face of an animorphized (?) nut mascot in a tattoo.but the "artist" pulled it off with aplomb.

  • Scarecrow & WoodChipper Repair||

    Same logic that says stealing a shirt or hot dog warrants spending $100 a day to throw someone in jail for a month. Nothing to see here, move along.

  • ||

    Wait a minute... there might be legal precedent. Of course! Child-snatching!
    [grabs a law book]
    Child, child... "Child: see Snatch."
    [flips back several pages]
    Ah, Haley vs. United States. Haley: 7, United States: nothing. You see, it can be done!

  • ant1sthenes||

    "Child: see Snatch"

    I think that's a different crime. Corruption of a minor or something.

  • ||

    There is more harm being done than separation from the mother. Separation from the mother will prevent the mom from breastfeeding sufficiently to sustain her milk supply, so the baby will likely be raised on formula. Formula-fed babies get sick more often. Hench the judge is endangering the childs health much more than the marijana traces,

  • Scarecrow & WoodChipper Repair||

    But it is still the mother's fault. If she hadn't broken the law by smoking pot, the magistrate wouldn't have been forced to protect the baby.

  • Domina Elle||

    THE LAW IS WRONG! THE LAW HURTS PEOPLE! HURTS CHILDREN!

    Wow. There are so many establishment cock suckers!!

    The nazis were just following orders too buddy.

    Wake up. Stop being a DRONE IN THE HIVE.

  • NYer||

    If all legalizing pot in Ohio does right is stick a finger in the eyes of the overzealous prosecutors, asshole magistrates, and make Kevin Sabet and Patrick Kennedy's heads' explode then Ohioans should vote to legalize. Issue 3 sucks from what I read, but I think it would be worth the cronyism just to make Patrick Kennedy cry and watch people like this Magistrate have a shit fit.

  • JW||

    A CFS spokeswoman said Magistrate Hilow, who works under the supervision of Judge Thomas F. O'Malley, has made a habit of ignoring the agency's recommendations. "We are disappointed that this jurist regularly makes rulings disregarding the agency's professional opinion and the opinions of other professionals in the courtroom, include guardians ad litem and other child welfare experts," she said. "We will continue to work with this family, which is committed to reunification."

    Up is down. Black is white. Cats and dogs...

  • Domina Elle||

    That NAZI bitch needs to be removed from her position!

  • AD-RtR/OS!||

    Gov. Kasich will be all over this./s

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