Why Poor Parents Get Busted for Pot
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Why Poor Parents Get Busted for Pot
Posted by CN Staff on October 17, 2012 at 06:07:02 PT
By Emma S. Ketteringham and Mary Anne Mendenhall
Source: AlterNet
USA -- Recently, the New York Times published an op-ed by an art dealer and father from San Francisco titled “Pot for Parents.” It was just the latest of a growing number of pieces (, NY Post, and published recently espousing the benefits of marijuana use for parents. These pro-pot missives share a carefree and cavalier tone, portraying marijuana use as an upscale diversion that ameliorates stress and leads to more patient and creative parenting. The “best part” of marijuana use, the “Pot for Parents” author writes, “is an amazing off-label benefit I call Parental Attention Surplus Syndrome” -- the ability to perform obligatory parental duties with genuine enthusiasm after using marijuana.
Whatever benefits marijuana use may or may not have for parenting, to those of us who represent parents in New York City’s Family Courts, these articles only highlight a daily reality: that when it comes to drug use, there are very different rules for poor parents, and particularly poor parents of color. The disproportionate and devastating impact of the drug war on poor communities of color, in terms of criminal arrests and prosecutions, has been well documented. What has largely gone unreported is the extent to which countless low-income parents in New York City and across the country live with the fear – a fear clearly not shared by the well-heeled author of “Pot for Parents” – that they could lose their children to the foster care system if they were as brazen about their own pot smoking. These fears are well founded. For poor parents in New York, suspicion of marijuana use will often trigger a visit from the Administration for Children’s Services (ACS), and an intrusive inspection of their homes, bedrooms and cupboards. The municipal caseworker, untrained in social work or child psychology, will interrogate their children, asking questions about the intimate minutiae of all aspects of family life without background or context, and require a drug test. If the parent refuses a drug test or tests positive for marijuana, she will be asked to attend intensive drug treatment lasting up to 18 months, usually at taxpayers’ expense, even for casual or infrequent marijuana use. If the parent refuses to attend treatment, ACS will file a petition charging the parent with child neglect, regardless of whether there is any evidence that the marijuana use has had a negative effect on parenting. Contrary to the ACS position, research actually suggests that there is no express link between marijuana use on its own and child neglect. In one 13-year study at Columbia University, researchers found that even during periods of marijuana-induced intoxication, people are able to engage in appropriate social behaviors and even respond to emergencies. A second peer-reviewed study sought to determine whether drug use -- including harder drugs -- causes or is associated with increased risks of abuse and neglect. The researchers could not find any such association. Despite a lack of evidence of any actual harm, these cases will nonetheless wind their way through protracted and torturous court processes. Parents will be drug-tested again and again, ordered to attend services, and threatened with the removal of their children until they test negative. If they fail to comply with mandated services or test positive for marijuana during the proceedings, the court can remove their children and place them with strangers. To say that this process weighs heavily on a family’s day-to-day functioning is an understatement. Cases frequently linger in the court system for months or sometimes years. Parents are required to open their homes up to an ever-changing line-up of caseworkers who come knocking at the dinner hour, or worse, past bedtime. And even if the legal case is ultimately dismissed, the parent’s name will likely remain on a state-wide registry of people who have maltreated children until the parent’s youngest child turns 28 years old, a stigma that will foreclose numerous job opportunities and disadvantage the parent at every turn in future child-related court proceedings.We know that substance use cuts across socioeconomic and racial lines. National studies show that 22.5 million Americans – nearly 9% of the population – say they regularly use drugs such as marijuana and studies consistently show that marijuana use is heaviest among whites. Yet it is poor parents of color who overwhelmingly shoulder the burden of a dysfunctional and broken child welfare system. Indeed, despite higher rates of illegal drug use by white women during pregnancy, African American women are 10 times more likely to be reported to child welfare authorities for testing positive for an illegal drug at the birth of their child. The child welfare system’s treatment of substance-using parents is one of the clearest examples of the double standard that exists for rich and poor parents in this country. In one America, parents risk nothing more than the passive disapproval of peers whose tolerance of parental palliatives stops at a legal glass of Chardonnay at dinnertime. In the other America, families risk needless and costly governmental intrusion, court-directed scrutiny of their parenting abilities, and in many cases, the permanent disruption of their families.Our courts regularly mete out draconian punishments to poor parents for behavior that would elicit nothing worse than a disapproving glance in more well-to-do circles. ACS perpetuates this double-standard unabated – without any support for its position – causing more short- and long-term harm to children than a little “pot for parents” ever could. Emma S. Ketteringham is Managing Attorney at the Bronx Defenders, Family Defense Practice, and the former director of legal advocacy at National Advocates for Pregnant Women. Mary Anne Mendenhall is Staff Attorney at the Bronx Defenders, Family Defense Practice. Newshawk: HopeSource: AlterNet (US)Author:  Emma S. Ketteringham and Mary Anne MendenhallPublished: October 16, 2012Copyright: 2012 Independent Media InstituteContact: letters Website: -- Cannabis Archives 
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Comment #34 posted by runruff on October 22, 2012 at 06:06:21 PT
Religion, as runruff observes?
Funny, Jewish kids grow up with a religious stigma, Latin kids grow up with the stigmata.
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Comment #33 posted by FoM on October 21, 2012 at 13:43:49 PT
Thank you. Beautiful songs too. Bobby has lived unable to even feed himself for a long time. It took all his energy to complete a sentence. Hi mind was fine but his body just slowly over the years just stopped working. His mother, my sister, who is close to 80 went everyday to feed him twice a day. She never missed a day unless she was physically unable. The sadness is because we won't see him again on this earth but he is free and for that I am happy. 
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Comment #32 posted by afterburner on October 21, 2012 at 12:43:04 PT
My condolences on your loss:GEORGE HARRISON - All Things Must Pass (with lyrics).wmv You Without You The Beatles Beatles - Free As A Bird - HD always reminds me of the funeral of a young girl who was kidnapped, raped and murdered. As a friend of the family, my grief was large, my compassion for their suffering. After the burial, I saw a friend or relative waving and smiling from the back window of the family car. When I asked about this seemingly incongruous action, someone explained that now she was free from pain. I have carried that feeling into each death since then. Sometimes it's hardest to let go of those who were closest to us. 
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Comment #31 posted by FoM on October 21, 2012 at 05:30:09 PT
Had Enough
I love that song. Thank you.
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Comment #30 posted by Had Enough on October 20, 2012 at 23:24:58 PT
The silence of the sounds...
Simon & Garfunkel - The Sound of Silence you is there...It will find you...
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Comment #29 posted by Had Enough on October 20, 2012 at 23:16:07 PT
runruff Re: #24
""To feel more is to have more, to appreciate what we have is to be wealthy beyond measure.""Well said Jerry...The more it hurts...the more love that was and is still there...
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Comment #28 posted by FoM on October 20, 2012 at 16:40:34 PT
Thank you. I understand what you are saying. For Bobby it would have been merciful to let him go. He went too long without oxygen and the result was severe brain damage but because they finally got a heart beat it was left to the family to turn off life support. That is very hard to do. For me just let me go. Don't even try. I don't want a funeral just scatter my ashes in the woods that I love. 
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Comment #27 posted by Hope on October 20, 2012 at 10:19:06 PT
That's beautiful, Runruff.
I had never thought of it that way. Thanks for the thought... a spiritual revelation. Sweet.
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Comment #26 posted by Hope on October 20, 2012 at 10:12:55 PT
Suffering and determination are written on his face. Looking at the face in that picture I can see he is noble. He cares about other people. A lot of goodness in that man. His suffering made him compassionate for others, I'd guess. I'd say he spent a lot of his time comforting others. Goodness.No wonder people liked him. And obviously he had expressed the desire to live, against all odds, and the drastic efforts of those around him becomes understandable.Maybe he was outside his body and couldn't feel the pain and was actually appreciating how hard they were trying.I've expressed the desire for heroic measures. :0)It's mainly rebellion, I suppose. If I hadn't been in the room and listened to a witch of a woman I did not like trying to convince my grandmother in the hospital to "Go home" if she was found unresponsive. Yes! She wanted to go home. She had ever since she woke up from surgery. I kept silent as much as I could... I was there. We tried never to leave her alone. I wasn't giving these people "Privacy" to talk to my Grandmother in this case and I already knew one of them would be mean and disprespectful to her when she was tired towards the end of her shift. She'd get cranky and nasty and Granny was too weak to defend herself... other wise that woman would have already had two black eyes and a lot of hair snatched from her head. I knew Granny was way out of touch. I knew her. I said, "Granny. She doesn't mean "Go home" to your house and your pets. She means "Go home to Heaven".That woman glared at me. I glared back at her. The very idea! Then she said, if you choose heroic measures first they will shock you over and over again, then they will break your rib cage at the breastbone... I think she said, and spread your ribs and the doctor will reach in and massage your heart to try to get it to beat again. Granny was all up for that after a bit of cogitation.That woman was mad at me. Granny lived many more years happily.
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Comment #25 posted by FoM on October 20, 2012 at 05:52:00 PT
I know you are right and thank you. It's better to have loved and lost then never to have loved at all.
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Comment #24 posted by runruff on October 20, 2012 at 05:28:08 PT
FoM and Stick,
God has been extra kind to those of us who have the softest hearts. We feel more of the love he has sent to us so we feel a greater lose when our loved ones depart.To feel more is to have more, to appreciate what we have is to be wealthy beyond measure.Peace be upon you and yours.
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Comment #23 posted by FoM on October 20, 2012 at 05:00:26 PT
For My Friends Here
This is my nephew Bobby. We knew this day was coming for a long time but he wanted to live and it was really not expected at this time. He seemed a little better the last few days so this is very hard. My other nephew with Muscular Dystrophy that is a contractor in Afghanistan will arrive tomorrow morning.
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Comment #22 posted by Had Enough on October 20, 2012 at 01:46:01 PT
Thanks Hope...It's good to be here and enjoy the comfort this place has...Of course the people hangin' around here is what makes it special...
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Comment #21 posted by Hope on October 20, 2012 at 00:04:40 PT
Had Enough
So good to see you.
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Comment #20 posted by Had Enough on October 19, 2012 at 17:47:00 PT
Special Place to be...
Why thank you FoM...It's good to be here...
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Comment #19 posted by FoM on October 19, 2012 at 04:42:42 PT
Had Enough
It's wonderful to see you. It always is. Thank you.
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Comment #18 posted by Had Enough on October 19, 2012 at 00:09:33 PT
Peace to you FoM...
There is peace somewhere in all this madness...very elusive...and hard to find...especially at times like this...but it is there...somewhere...If we keep on keeping on...we will find it...eventually...It is said...what doesn’t kill us makes us they say...
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Comment #17 posted by FoM on October 18, 2012 at 13:25:27 PT
He was a very good man. Thank you.
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Comment #16 posted by ekim on October 18, 2012 at 11:19:27 PT
never complained just loved everyone
no better words to remember your Nephew.
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Comment #15 posted by FoM on October 18, 2012 at 10:17:01 PT
Thank you. It's been a tough 24 hours.
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Comment #14 posted by Canis420 on October 18, 2012 at 10:08:25 PT:
So sorry for your loss
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Comment #13 posted by FoM on October 18, 2012 at 08:45:07 PT
Thank you.
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Comment #12 posted by FoM on October 18, 2012 at 08:37:53 PT
His chest was burnt badly from the shocking. The doctor said he was gone at the nursing home but no one wanted to stop trying since he is loved by those at the nursing home and those at the hospital that have cared for him. His body is being transported to Akron to retrieve his brain for the Muscular Dystrophy study he has been in. It will be sent to Miami where the research is ongoing. Maybe they will be able to retrieve some other organs too. He never complained about anything but just loved everyone. He lived and died with dignity. This is a very sad and somber day.
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Comment #11 posted by ripit on October 18, 2012 at 08:30:17 PT
thoughts of peace
 to you and yours fom.
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Comment #10 posted by Hope on October 18, 2012 at 08:10:00 PT
Oh my.
I'm so sorry. I know you thought so much of him. I'm so sorry. It is good that he got to see his brother again before this happened. 
 If it hadn't been for all the shocking it sounds like it might have been a gentle passing. Wow. I kind of hate to hear they did all that. Hopefully he didn't feel it.Again I'm so sorry. I know you loved him very much.
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Comment #9 posted by FoM on October 18, 2012 at 07:42:09 PT
Off Topic
We got a call late last night that my nephew was found in the nursing home unresponsive. They started CPR and rushed him to the hospital where they shocked him 8 times and finally got a heartbeat. We were at the hospital until after 2 am so I was able to say my goodbyes. This morning the machines were turned off and this 16 year battle with Muscular Dystrophy is over. If I miss news articles over the coming days this will be why.
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Comment #8 posted by runruff on October 17, 2012 at 18:50:40 PT
Behind irony bars.
The irony is, behind bars the wage you can get for skilled labor is a fortune to a prisoner. Any where from fifteen cents up one dollar twenty five cents. this kind of wage makes you a wealthy man in prison.On the regular retail market these items compete with legitimate businesses who must pay a livable wage to it's workers.Slave labor is all it is. I would like to take this opportunity to point out the involvement of my favorite criminal of our age, G.H.W.Bush Sr.. The man who came up with this and many other inhuman schemes for Which I am sure he will die peaceably in his sleep. I would wish him the thousand deaths of a rag doll if I could have my way!
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Comment #7 posted by Hope on October 17, 2012 at 18:18:09 PT
I think prisoners ought to have the opportunity
to work.... but they should be paid at least full minimum wage or equal with the same job on the outside. It is slave labor and unfair advantage in all sorts of ways when they are not paid full wages.
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Comment #6 posted by FoM on October 17, 2012 at 16:00:33 PT
To me it is the continuation of slave labor. They never wanted to give up slaves and this way they don't have to.
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Comment #5 posted by Hope on October 17, 2012 at 15:10:55 PT
And here in Texas and I'm sure other states, too..
The prison companies wanted contracts from cities that promised so many prisoner would be imprisoned in their cages at times in the future.Contracts! Contracts saying the number of people they would be imprisoning!
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Comment #4 posted by Hope on October 17, 2012 at 15:05:47 PT
One of the most disturbing things I learned
years ago, about prisons for profit... the prison industrial complex, is that they lobby lawmakers, big time, regularly, to increase prison sentences and make more laws that can send more people to prison. They've hired skilled people to talk this up and promote this to law makers. All the time. An activist here in Texas once described these prisons as "The monster on the side of the road." It's all fine and dandy when the monster is consuming other people, people you might not like... but eventually that monster will get around to consuming you or your kids. It's not such a fine thing then.
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Comment #3 posted by FoM on October 17, 2012 at 11:49:26 PT
Prison Industrial Complex
At this point I believe that the Prison Industrial Complex is why reform doesn't happen as quickly as we know it should.
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Comment #2 posted by Hope on October 17, 2012 at 11:13:36 PT
Child stealing by government agents
It is still happening and it's such a horrible thing to do to a parent or a child. Horrible and the injustice of it is beyond bearing.What a wicked, wicked world we live in. 
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Comment #1 posted by Paul Pot on October 17, 2012 at 10:03:27 PT:
child stealing still happening
Thank you so much for writing this.
Your right about this being a class war. In fact the drug war forced the polarization of the classes. 
Child stealing is a serious problem right around the world. 
In Australia there is the shame of the 'stolen generation'. 
Children were taken from indigenous families just because they were black up until too recently. 
The government even famously apologized a few year years ago after a lot of talk. 
But guess what? The kids are still being taken.But it's not because they're black now. We're not racist anymore. 
We take the kids because their parents are filthy druggies. 
It devastates thousands of families. 
And the crazy part is, toker parents are less likely to tend toward violence than alcohol consuming parents but they are not criminals. 
So when the government takes your kids they are most likely to give them to alcohol consuming foster parents. 
This is one of the reasons why foster parents are so bad. 
They're alcoholic's, not criminals. 
It's for reasons like this that add up to make prohibition a crime against humanity.
Hopefully legalization in Washington will break the deadlock and render federal and international law null and void and in the legal vacuum that follows nations drowning in debt or blood will just legalize and prohibition will fall like a Berlin Wall. 
War is Over! 
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