The Cost of War on Drugs

Shona Banda

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I wish I could say I was surprised when I heard the news. Shona Banda, a marijuana activist in Kansas and author of “Live Free or Die: Reclaim your Life…Reclaim your Country!” is fighting for custody of her 11-year-old son after police found Marijuana in her home. Her book recounts how marijuana saved her life from Crohn’s disease so it is little wonder that her son stood up to a “Just Say No” type of lesson at his school. I can just imagine how it went down in his classroom.

Teacher: Marijuana is a Schedule I substance with accepted medical value.

Son: My mother uses cannabis to treat her Crohn’s disease. It literally saved her life.

Teacher: So you’re saying that there is currently rampant illegal drug use in your home with complete disregard for your safety?

Son: That isn’t what I-

But it was too late. The teacher had already called the principal, who will inform the police of a child in danger. Which is why Shona Banda found police cars surrounding her residence when she got home that day. They were investigating the possibility of drugs in the home and they did not let her enter her house without consenting to a search. When she did not consent, they waited until they got a warrant. When she asked what prompted the search, she was told that “it doesn’t matter”. They found marijuana which justified taking her son into state custody.

Of course Kansas has the right to enforce their own laws. Of course you shouldn’t give pot to children. But I think Shona has the right to be innocent until proven guilty. I think her marijuana possession was medical and political in nature and the burden of proof is on the state to prove that the presence of marijuana in this case constitutes reckless endangerment of this child. But that’s not our justice system. In our system the mere presence of marijuana justifies imprisonment, deportation and loss of custody or employment.

Truer words were never spoken when the officer told Shona that “it doesn’t matter”. Privacy is the price of the drug war because to enforce victimless crimes, the police must spy on citizens. It really doesn’t matter if a cop decides he has probable cause to search you and lucky for him if he finds cash because he’s already decided it’s drug money. When suspicion constitutes guilt, it doesn’t matter how it started, you’re already guilty.

I say that possession of marijuana is not a crime, it’s political speech–and it doesn’t justify the forced removal of your children. It was certainly political speech in Shona’s case. If her activist goal was to show everyone the injustice of the drug war, then I think the Garden City Police Department has done a spectacular job for her. Good job, guys. So good luck, Shona. May justice prevail.


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