Just one hour's drive west in Colorado, everything might have been fine. But in Garden City, Kansas, marijuana can still land you in serious trouble.
Police in the city searched the home of Shona Banda last month after her 11-year-old son spoke about weed in school. In an article published this week, Banda told the investigative news website BenSwann.com that her son disagreed with the views being put forward in a drug education class.
“My son says different things like, ‘My mom calls it cannabis and not marijuana,’ she said. "He let them know how educated he was on the facts.”
A spokesperson for the Garden City Police Department told Fusion that they visited Banda's home on March 24 after the school contacted the Kansas Department for Children and Families, which in turn reached out to law enforcement.
Banda would not let officers enter the home, so police obtained a search warrant and returned later that day, according to the spokesperson, Capt. Randy Ralston.
He said evidence was taken from the house but declined to give specifics, citing the ongoing investigation.
"Right now, no charges have been filed, and she has not been arrested," he said.
Banda is a public activist for cannabis oils, which can be used for medicinal purposes in states where the drug is legal. On a Facebook page for "Shona Banda Consultations," there are posts about the positive health impact of the oils. Banda did not return messages by phone and Facebook.
According to a fundraising page set up in her name, Banda used the oils to treat Crohn's Disease, a potentially debilitating stomach condition. The page also says that authorities seized two ounces of marijuana and one ounce of cannabis oil from the house.
Marijuana could become a particularly sensitive subject in Garden City. The 27,000-person town is a 70-mile drive from the state's border with Colorado, where weed is legal for recreational and medical purposes.
"With us being so close to Colorado, I expect a lot of it trickles over here," Capt. Ralston told Fusion. "We're not going to turn our head to it, especially an operation like this. Any time it's reported that a child is in danger, it's going to take priority."
According to Banda's fundraising page, her son has been placed in temporary custody with his father. The next custody hearing is set to take place on Monday, April 20.
Washington Post blogger Radley Balko has also written about the case, calling it an injustice.
The absurdity here of course is that a woman could lose her custody of her child for therapeutically using a drug that’s legal for recreational use an hour to the west. It seems safe to say that the amount of the drug she had in her home was an amount consistent with personal use. (If she had been distributing, she’d almost certainly have been charged by now.)
A spokesperson for the child's school, Bernadine Sitts Intermediate Center, said the institution was cooperating with authorities, but would not comment further on the case.
Ted Hesson was formerly the immigration editor at Fusion, covering the issue from Washington, D.C. He also writes about drug laws and (occasionally) baseball. On the side: guitars, urban biking, and fiction.