Court Rules Marijuana Use No Reason To Take Mother’s Kids


Graphic: Reality Catcher

​​​The state cannot take children away from a mother simply because she tests positive for marijuana use, the Oregon Court of Appeals ruled on Wednesday.

According to the decision, reversing a Marion County juvenile court ruling, the children can’t be taken away without evidence showing the mother’s cannabis use endangers the kids, reports Helen Jung at The Oregonian.
The juvenile court had earlier ruled that the state Department of Human Services had jurisdiction over the two children, a 19-month-old and a 6-month-old. The state had argued that the simple fact fact that the mother used marijuana “presented a reasonable likelihood of harm to her two children.”
But the appeals court reasonably agreed with the mother’s argument that the state had failed to provide any evidence connecting her marijuana use with risk to the children.
The children and the mother are identified only by their initials in the case to protect their anonymity.

Graphic: Gay Stoners

​The state of Oregon first became involved with the children in October 2009 when it received a report that a man was selling methamphetamine at the family’s home.
DHS workers visited the home and met the father, whom they claimed appeared to be “under the influence of a controlled substance.”
The agency later learned that the father was also a registered sex offender.
The mother, who arrived home later, denied using drugs.
At the time, the workers found the home was clean, the children had appropriate food to eat and they appeared “happy and healthy,” the appeals court wrote in its decision.
A DHS worker also had testified that the mother “appears to have appropriate parenting skills.”
The parents agreed that the two children could stay with their maternal grandmother while DHS investigated whether the father had completed his required sex offender treatment. During that time, a urinalysis from the mother came back positive for marijuana.
The mother admitted smoking pot at a party or week or two earlier, but said she did not use marijuana frequently and never used it around the children.
A test taken a few weeks later came back negative for marijuana and other drugs.
But the state had trouble contacting the mother, who did not have a working phone and did not come to a December 2009 meeting, according to the appeals court decision. She eventually did meet with DHS personnel but failed to submit another urinalysis as requested.
It was this “accumulation of things” that led the juvenile court to decide the mother had a chemical abuse problem and find that the state had jurisdiction over the children.
In reversing that decision, the appeals court said “the record lacks evidence showing that mother’s use of marijuana, her ‘chemical abuse problem’ as found by the trial court, is a condition or circumstance that poses any risk to her children. That evidence is necessary to establish jurisdiction over the children,” the court ruled.
The case now goes back to the juvenile court, according to Holly Telerant, attorney for the mother.
Telerant declined to comment on where the children are now living. The Oregon Department of Human Services also did not immediately have comment.