• Fri, Aug 19 2011

Marijuana Is Illegal, And Your Children Should Be More Important Than Your High

Any time I’ve heard of or dealt with Child Protective Services, the case always seem to be too little, too late. So often, we hear about the children who weren’t taken away in time. We hear the horror stories of parents who were reported on but never actually observed. As a person who has worked with inner-city children, I’ve seen abuse and neglect go on long after CPS has been contacted. It’s gotten so bad that one friend warned me against contacting Child Protective Services at all. “You’ll just be getting your hopes up. The child has to land in the hospital before they’ll even make a visit to the house.”

So imagine my surprise when people were charging that CPS was overstepping their bounds! They’re doing too much? Are you sure?

The New York Times and my colleague Mollie Hemingway are talking about a practice in New York where state social workers will remove children from homes if their parents are found in possession of or admit to using marijuana. Even though the amounts found are too small to qualify as a misdemeanor, any pot at all can get a child removed from your home. Some believe that this policy is overreaching and punishing parents who aren’t truly neglectful.

I have to say, no matter how sanctimonious and judgmental I sound, I have no sympathy for a parent whose child is taken away because they choose to do drugs, no matter how frequently or how minor. There are plenty of arguments to be made about the legalization of marijuana or the minimal effect it has. Those aren’t the points I’m debating. The fact is that marijuana is illegal, plain and simple. As long as its illegal, parents need to be responsible for putting the safety and care of their children ahead of whatever personal urges they have.

My issue here isn’t with these people’s drug use; it’s with their priorities. We should all know that using drugs, any drug at all, could potentially cost us our children. Any time you commit an illegal action, jail is a possible outcome. If a person chooses to gamble their freedom simply to use a controlled substance, that’s their prerogative. But once you have children, you aren’t just risking your freedom, you’re jeopardizing your children’s health, safety and home. I’m sorry but those things should not be worth more than your high. By continuing to use drugs after you’ve given birth, you’re risking custody of your children. I can’t believe that someone could gamble like that.

There was one very disturbing fact in the Times piece. Defense lawyers note that while marijuana use is twice as high among whites, Caucasian parents are rarely facing charges of neglect due to drug use. They don’t provide any numbers, but if this is true, it’s the only part of the story that I think implicates the Administration of Child Services in wrongdoing. Removing children from homes where drug use is occurring is something that I have no problem with, but failing to apply that rule to all parents is a major issue and one that I would like to see researched further. Preventing drug use around children is an admirable goal, but not if its used to discriminate against minority parents.

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  • Melyssa

    Are you at all aware of how detrimental it is upon a child to be removed from the family home?
    Do you know how traumatic it is to be removed from what is comfortable and familiar for a child?
    Why should a child be punished for a parents actions? How is it not more beneficial to not only the child but the family as a whole to receive counseling and the help they need rather than tear apart the family unit.

    • Lindsay Cross

      I have seen first hand what happens, which is why I think parents need to be worried about their children instead of their drug habit.

  • diane

    you do sound pretty judgmental and sanctimonious. oh, close-minded too!

    also, perhaps minorities seeing more charges of neglect due to drug use speaks to other significant issues that need to be addressed – education, poverty, single parent families to name a few – things that contribute to neglect. serious issues that deserve attention, and yes, may also correlate with drug use.

    just not convinced that pot use ‘no matter how infrequent or how little’ equals neglect, and i think we’d be better served by having this overreaching ‘law’ changed, than more families being disrupted.

    you’ve worked with inner city children, i’ve no doubt that you’ve seen drugs tear families apart. but really – if this law were so applied as you would like, and any and all parents possessing or using any quantity of pot were to lose their children… i’d guess that half of the parents i know would be arrested. affluent, educated, cautious, involved parents, the kind who have professionals baby-proof their homes, don’t leave kids unattended for a second, pay for tutors and child psychologists, coach little league and volunteer at the school fair. and sometimes, they roll one up, when the kids are asleep. yup, neglectful parents!

  • Tiffany

    I think you sound judgmental. My mom smoked pot my entire childhood, but I never knew it. Because she did it when I was asleep or at school. Was she high when I was around her? maybe. But looking back, I can say with absolute certainty that I’m SO thankful she smoked pot instead of drank. Drinking is still legal and plenty of parents drink with kids around. I was much happier having a mom who giggled a bit more and had the munchies than to have a mom that was passed out drunk on the couch and incoherent. That’s just my experience and opinion though. I’m not necessarily excusing my mother’s behavior, and I certainly don’t smoke pot. But I am very glad my mom was not a drunk.

  • CS

    Are you so high and mighty with alcohol use as well, or does it get a pass just because it’s legal? What about chronic pain sufferers, cancer patients, and the like? Would you prefer that they be chemically inhibited by narcotics that are more debilitating, and addictive, but ‘ok’ because the ‘Man’ said so? Neglect is neglect-it has a definition and you might want to go look it up. It doesn’t mean what you apparently think it means.

  • Rebecca

    I have a few friends who smoke pot almost every night well after their children go to bed, and right before they do. I do not do this, and I don’t judge my friends. However, I DO know, for a fact (because my therapist once told me this when I mentioned it in passing) that most kids who start (or try for the first time) smoking pot DO seem to get it from their parents stash. Now THAT is something to think about.

  • Abigail

    I totally agree with the author. It doesn’t matter what your stance is on foster care, cihldren, or drugs, the bottom line is that marijuana is illegal. If you’re using it, you deserve to be punished for criminal activity. And as for the commenter who compared it to drinking, a responsible parent makes sure that their child is taken care of if they are drinking. I don’t drink more than one, 8oz glass of wine unless I know my children are staying overnight at their grandparents’ house, so that if I’m going to be fairly tipsy, someone responsible is caring for them. But whether or not you do that as a parent, it’s not a crime to drink while your children are around. It is, however, illegal to use marijuana.

    • Mel

      Agree.

    • Zxcvew

      8 oz glass of wine! Wow, you have no idea what reasonable limits with alcohol are. You should be reported to cps.

  • WMDKitty

    Okay, if you’re going to remove kids from their parents because the parents like to toke up a little now and then, let’s take this to the logical conclusion — remove children from all homes where the parents have, say, a glass of wine with dinner, too. After all, alcohol is far more dangerous than cannabis, both for the user and those around the user…

    • Mel

      I’m guessing you’re one of those that like to “toke up?” *eye roll* Nice grasp at a straw, there, by the way. You can go light up a few now, and take your ignorance with you.

  • WMDKitty

    By the way, your graphic there? It’s a maple leaf.

    • TabooSushi

      Perhaps the author is in fact against Canadians?

      But I agree with you completely.

      While I don’t believe parents should be risking their freedom and thus their families by indulging in illegal substances, I think this whole marijuana thing is getting WAY out of proportion. There are FAR worst things in this world that parents do than pot, and yet the children somehow remain in their custody. Alcohol has destroyed more families than pot ever will, simply due to its side effects and addictive nature (yes, I am aware the pot can also be but that is not the point). Pot does not have the violent and dangerous side effects that alcohol so often does, yet alcohol is legal? A raging alcoholic has a better chance of keeping their children than a parent who has less than an ounce of pot in their posession, how does that make ANY sense, simply because one is illegal and the other is not?

    • Pix

      Since I submitted a longish response earlier and it didn’t actually post, I’m going to try again with a short comment…

      WMDKitty – I suggest you take advantage of google images. That is not a maple leaf.

    • Pix

      (Of course, now my earlier post shows up.)

    • Z

      Maple leaf? Are you sure about that? Honey, try Google. You’re embarrassing yourself.

  • Pix

    So, first of all WMDKitty… google maple leaf images and then google marijuana leaf images. I think you’ll find you’re wrong. That’s not a maple leaf.

    I have to say that I agree both with the article and with the commenters.

    What Lindsay is saying is that if you have children and you know that something you do could potentially cause them to be taken from you, and then you do it anyway, you’ve really no one to blame but yourself if they are taken away. You chose to gamble and you lost. But your children should be too important to gamble, no matter how you feel about the law itself.

    I haven’t actually seen any comments disagreeing with that statement. And Lindsay does specifically say that that is what she is arguing. She says the legality and effects of marijuana are not what she is focusing on here.

    I also agree that taking children away for any amount of marijuana use is pretty stupid. If you actually smoke it around your children then yeah, I think there’s good reason to remove the children from that situation. But then again, you probably shouldn’t be allowed to smoke cigarettes around your children either. It’s all a very slippery and confusing slope to be quite honest. But yeah, overall, I think a parent being high around their kid is far less dangerous than a parent being drunk around their kid.

    But if we go back to the actual point of the article…
    A parent choosing to do something recreational that could get them arrested and that could lead to their kid being removed from their home is not making the best parenting choice.
    Does anyone actually disagree with that statement?

  • Celine

    I can understand and respect this stance, based purely on legality. But does the author’s hard line stance about priorities only apply to illegal drugs, or is it equally intolerant of other minor legal infractions?

    For instance, if we argue that it is criminal neglect to possess any marijuana, even less than is required for a misdemeanor ticket…is it also criminally neglectful of your children to exceed the speed limit, even if it’s not generally enough to get a ticket? A mile or two per hour? Or maybe to jaywalk? Or litter? Parking violations? All of these are examples of someone putting their own convenience or enjoyment before their adherence to the law, and some of them have far more potential for direct consequences for a child.

  • REi

    As a kid, my father was taken from me because of these dumb pot laws. Was a better father, even after he was released from being forced into prison, than any friends father I met during my childhood. If you think these laws, or this article, have a ‘good point’. You obviously have no real sense of morality.

    And every time I see anything where this P.O.V. is considered ‘the inherently good’ choice, I die a little more on the inside.

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  • nonsmoking momma

    I am not a pot smoker, not occasionally, not socially, not ever. But wow with the judgment there! Okay okay, leaving the legal sh&* out (even though, there are places it is legal in certain circumstances, and since that is the case, lets leave it out!) Drinking is legal but I know plenty of people that smoke and plenty of people who drink. and the drinkers are much more likely to make bad decisions and make poor parenting choices. AND DRINKING IS LEGAL. get off your high horse please, do some research.. go after the moms who beat their kids, allow them to be sexually abused, go after them. I have never seen a “WEED HOUSE” where kids are dirty and crying and moms sell their bodies for weed. CRACK, ya, but hey, most of the pot heads i know are JUST like me (like i said, even though i dont smoke, and im being serious about it) they are professional men and women who enjoy a joint instead of a drink after work. They carpool, they host parties and they are well rounded people.. get a grip

  • HarmieV

    Literally the ONLY reason to abstain from marijuana is because it’s illegal. When I think of all the pill zombie or alcoholic parents I’ve met over the years, I can’t muster the will to feel ashamed of taking a toke after the LO is in bed for the night. After having my son I truly didn’t ever intend on using marijuana ever again, but I started having major anxiety issues. The doc put me on Valium & the zombie days began. It didn’t take me long to realize that anti anxiety meds & sleep aids were effecting who I was. I don’t get high around my child because that’s not how I want him to relate to me & that’s how the RX meds made me feel. I felt like a worse parent being “stoned” all day on pills. Also I know I’m not alone in this opinion. I was floored when I started to see on message boards how many women feel the way I do about motherhood, medications, & marijuana. The only thing wrong is the fact that it’s illegal & that makes people vilify us for our preference for natural means of controlling the anxiety & sleeplessness of a mother who loves & cares for her child more than anything in this world. I’m not stupid & I know there’s still a very long road ahead for the legalization efforts, but I do hope the day will come when I don’t have to fear the censure of my fellow citizens.

  • Mr. Fuckyouson

    Shut the fuck up, Cannabis is a medicine, and completely harmless. The fact that you think that the law is more important than freedoms shows how fucking stupid and ignorant you are. I hope you don;t have kids, or if they do, they become impotent and infertile, because people like you need to stop breeding. Stupid, ignorant SHEEP.

  • Timothy

    So the law is unjust, but we should follow it because it’s the law?

  • greg

    You are retarded. Such a stupid article. So, drinking a beer, that’s a drug, I’m going to jail? Seriously? This article is a prank, right? I mean, I consider myself prudish, but you’re in a whole other territory.