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Josh Crank, Lawyers.com
Medical marijuana dispensaries have been raided and shuttered with such regularity in recent years that they spark only the occasional protest. But when Michigan’s Children’s Protective Services took 6-month-old Brielle “Bree” Green from her parents because her mother is a medical marijuana caregiver, activists sprang into action.
Several organizations gathered this month to support parents Gordon “Steve” and Maria Green, and to protest Bree’s removal. Charmie Gholson, founder of Michigan Moms United, told the Lansing State Journal the Greens are “good, loving parents” who aren’t being protected by a medical marijuana provision designed to prevent families from being broken up over state-sanctioned marijuana use.
“There’s nowhere to go when [Children's Protective Services] does this,” Gholson said.
As a medical marijuana caregiver, Maria is allowed to grow or acquire marijuana for use by authorized patients. Steve uses medical marijuana to treat his epilepsy.
According to the Michigan Medical Marijuana Act, “a person shall not be denied custody or visitation of a minor for acting in accordance with this act, unless the person’s behavior is such that it creates an unreasonable danger to the minor that can be clearly articulated and substantiated.”
‘Best Interest of the Child’
The ordeal began when Maria’s ex-husband, with whom she shares custody of another child, filed a complaint with CPS alleging that the Green’s home is unfit for children. Maria maintains a locked marijuana cultivation room in her home, which state law allows.
After CPS took Bree from the home, the Greens met with Ingham County Family Court Referee Rod Porter, who upheld the removal. According to MI Marijuana News, Porter said it was dangerous for children to be in the home because the marijuana could attract armed robbers.
“We have homes being robbed at gunpoint – by individuals who know that children are at home,” Porter said.
Kris Hermes, spokesperson for the medical marijuana advocacy group Americans for Safe Access, told Lawyers.com that Porter’s reasoning is “outrageous.”
“By the same logic, the state should take away the children of parents who reside in high crime areas because they might be put in danger from criminal elements,” Hermes said. “That rationale is obviously absurd and medical marijuana patients should not be treated any differently than other parents susceptible to burglary.”
“The state of Michigan appears to be stooping to an all-time low in an effort to remove children from their home and loving parents.”
Family Court Judge Richard J. Garcia granted the Greens’ request for a hearing to reconsider Bree’s removal, but he ultimately upheld Porter’s decision. Garcia did, however, extend the amount of time the Greens are legally allowed to spend with their daughter each week.
Bree is currently living 140 miles away with Maria’s mother, according to Lansing Online News.
When You’re a Patient and a Parent
According to Americans for Safe Access, child custody issues like the Greens’ persist in part because of a bias against medical marijuana patients held by some CPS workers, attorneys and judges.
The organization says the best defense against CPS action is to be “very intentional and reasonable about your medical marijuana use and cultivation with regards to your children.”
Parents should secure their medical marijuana and any home cultivation areas to ensure children can’t gain access. Whenever possible, patients should avoid using marijuana in front of their children and should medicate when they won’t have interaction with their children for several hours.
The group also suggests parents talk to their children about medical marijuana just as they would any other prescription drug. Kids should understand that it’s for the patient only and that like other medical matters, medical marijuana use is a private issue that they shouldn’t talk about with just anyone.
These precautions can help avoid state intervention, but if CPS does come knocking, Americans for Safe Access says it might be time to call an attorney.
“If a CPS worker visits or threatens to remove your child, you need to make a difficult decision about how accommodating to be. Since they do have the power to take away your child, it can be risky to take an adversarial position. Still, you may want to consult a lawyer before speaking with them. Be polite and remember, the CPS case worker and you both want what’s best for your children, despite disagreements about what that entails.”