Horrifying: New York Parents Losing Custody of Kids After Being Caught With Tiny Amounts of Weed

Over time, American society's--and law enforcement--attitudes towards marijuana have somewhat loosened. Medical marijuana laws have passed and decriminalization is now common in many states. Even if the federal government lags, it's now common-sense to admit that pot among is the least of our problems and our war on drugs--at home and in Mexico--is a horrible thing.

One exception may be New York City, where the NYPD continues to arrest a disproportionate number of black and latino young men for low-level pot-related offenses, leading to a cycle that cripples the community. Even worse, according to a New York Times article this morning, is the fact that when an arrest isn't made or charges aren't filed, people caught with tiny amounts of marirjuana can lose their kids.

The story opens with a devastating anecdote about a woman who had so little marijuana in her home that charges weren't filed. Nonetheless, weeks were spent trying to retrieve the young children in her care from the foster care system. Others weren't so lucky as to get their children back.

Hundreds of New Yorkers who have been caught with small amounts of marijuana, or who have simply admitted to using it, have become ensnared in civil child neglect cases in recent years, though they did not face even the least of criminal charges, according to city records and defense lawyers. A small number of parents in these cases have even lost custody of their children.
New York City’s child welfare agency said that it was pursuing these cases for appropriate reasons, and that marijuana use by parents could often hint at other serious problems in the way they cared for their children. 


in New York, the child welfare agency has not shied from these cases. For these parents, the child welfare system has become an alternate system of justice, with legal standards on marijuana that appear to be tougher than those of criminal courts or, to some extent, of society at large. In interviews, lawyers from the three legal services groups that the city hires to defend parents said they saw hundreds of marijuana cases each year, most involving recreational users.

It's inhumane, to say the least, and of course procedures like these affect the already-vulnerable or those without resources to adequately fight the system. It's time that those in the allegedly progressive city revamped their drug policy from top to bottom.

Read the full story here.

AlterNet / By Sarah Seltzer

Posted at August 18, 2011, 6:12am

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