Fuck Yeah Drug Policy

front page August 17, 2011:

Hundreds ensnared in civil child neglect cases for small amounts of cannabis | NYT

The police found about 10 grams of marijuana, or about a third of an ounce, when they searched Penelope Harris’s apartment in the Bronx last year. The amount was below the legal threshold for even a misdemeanor, and prosecutors declined to charge her. But Ms. Harris, a mother whose son and niece were home when she was briefly in custody, could hardly rest easy.

The police had reported her arrest to the state’s child welfare hot line, and city caseworkers quickly arrived and took the children away.

Her son, then 10, spent more than a week in foster care. Her niece, who was 8 and living with her as a foster child, was placed in another home and not returned by the foster care agency for more than a year. Ms. Harris, 31, had to weather a lengthy child neglect inquiry, though she had no criminal record and had never before been investigated by the child welfare authorities, Ms. Harris and her lawyer said.

[…] State law considers a child neglected if his or her well-being is threatened by a parent who “repeatedly misuses” a drug. But the law does not distinguish marijuana from heroin or other drugs. The law says that if parents have “substantial impairment of judgment,” then there is a presumption of neglect, but it does not refer to quantities of drugs.

Furthermore, the law does not require child welfare authorities to catch parents while they are high or with drugs in their possession. Simply admitting past use to a caseworker is grounds for a neglect case. +

Pictured: Jose Gunnell, 23, lost custody of his 1-year-old daughter in March over a $5 bag of marijuana.

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