The father of a nine-month old baby girl who went missing overnight this past July is facing multiple felony charges because police say he was inside his dealer’s house buying drugs when his car, left running with his baby inside, went missing out of the driveway.
According to the Parrish Police Department, 9-month-old Harlow Freeman was first reported missing on Monday, July 10 by her father, 30-year-old Madison Jo Rilee Freeman of Jasper, Alabama.
“On July 10th, 2023, the Parrish Police Department was notified of a 9-month-old child that was left inside of a vehicle located at 311 Crest Avenue in Parrish. The father, Jo Rilee Freeman, reported to officers that he left the child inside the running vehicle while he went inside to visit his friends,” said the Parrish Police Department in a Facebook post.
Police said the results of their months-long investigation revealed Freeman had lied about what he had been doing inside the house and he had actually been inside purchasing a prescription anxiety medication called Xanax, which is often abused for its extremely sedative and tranquilizing effects.
“The investigation has revealed the father, Jo Rilee Freeman, drove to 311 Crest Avenue and was conducting a drug transaction with Rodney Thomas while inside the residence,” Parrish Police said. “The father was made aware while he was inside the residence that his car was no longer in the driveway. He drove around for several minutes looking for his car then notified the police. A handgun and other narcotics were recovered from the residence.”
An AMBER alert was issued and according to Police Chief Danny Woodard, over 100 law enforcement units arrived to help find Harlow within 30 minutes of the alert.
“The child was located inside the vehicle 12 hours later. The vehicle was approximately 80 yards down a steep embankment across the street from the house completely covered in kudzu,” Parrish Police said.
What happened to little Harlow between the time her father went into his suspected dealer’s house and the time she was found the next morning is still relatively unclear. The vehicle was found just across the street down a steep ravine the next morning, shrouded from view by thick patches of vines. Parrish Police have said they do not have a suspect in custody for the suspected kidnapping or car theft.
“It was impossible to see,” Chief Woodard said about the location of the vehicle. “The area was searched multiple times through the night.”
Harlow was dehydrated but ok when they found her, according to police. In a stroke of blind luck for the infant, a rear window of the vehicle had been broken in a previous and completely unrelated incident so the baby had plenty of fresh air overnight. She was taken to the hospital to be evaluated but was in “good” condition when Chief Woodard gave a press conference update to the situation in July.
“Considering the situation this was the best case scenario for us to find the child alive and well, dehydrated, but going to [have] a 100 percent recovery.” Chief Woodard said.
I found a lot of speculation saying the Dad forgot to apply the parking brake and the vehicle rolled into the ravine backwards but I also found plenty of speculation saying that didn’t happen and Chief Woodard has given few details other than to say that “Anything is possible, and everything is being evaluated.” Police also said they received many reports of the vehicle in question leaving the area at a high rate of speed.
Warrants were issued and subsequent arrests made for Madison Jo Rilee Freeman and his alleged dealer, Rodney Thomas as well as a third person, 19-year-old Mason Chappel whose involvement in the case was not immediately clear.
Freeman was charged with conspiracy to commit a controlled substance crime and endangering the welfare of a child. Thomas was charged with conspiracy to commit a controlled substance crime and unlawful possession of a controlled substance. He also had six grams of meth and assorted prescription pills on him when he was arrested. Chappel was charged with interfering with governmental operations. A call to the Parrish Police Department to inquire who Chappel is and what he had to do with this case was not returned in time for publication.
“I would like to thank all the agencies and the Walker County District Attorney’s for the many hours of hard work that went into this investigation. While we are still seeking answers to this case the investigation will continue,” Chief Woodard said.
A settlement has been reached between the City of New York’s child welfare arm and a mother who had her baby taken from her just days after his birth.
According to an article in the New York Daily News, The New York Administration for Children’s Services will pay Chanetto Rivers, who says she was subjected to a drug test without her consent, a settlement of $75K plus attorney fees.
Rivers’ case first made headlines in May when the New York Times ran a story entitled “She Smoked Weed Legally, Then Gave Birth. New York Took Her Baby,” and that does indeed appear to be an apt description as Rivers gave birth to her baby boy in August of 2021, five months after New York legalized cannabis for recreational purposes.
The new laws did not stop ACS from taking custody of Rivers’ baby just two days after his birth. Rivers’ lawsuit against ACS argued that the organization’s own policy published in 2019 even before legalization forbids separating a mother and child for cannabis use alone.
“Positive marijuana toxicology of an infant or the mother at the time of birth is not sufficient, in and of itself, to support a determination that the child is maltreated, nor is such evidence alone sufficient for ACS to take protective custody of (remove) a child or file a case in Family Court,” – Excerpt taken from “ACS Policy and Practice on Cases Involving Marijuana Use by Patients.”
The Daily News article said that the whole situation began when Rivers told her doctors and nurses she had consumed cannabis at a family gathering just hours before arriving at the hospital. A drug test was allegedly taken without Rivers’ consent, the results of which came back positive for cannabis both in Rivers and her baby. Two days later, an order was issued by ACS to the hospital to retain custody of the baby and not release him to Rivers.
“Just days postpartum, [Rivers] had to travel in physical pain every day, to go to the hospital to be able to visit with her baby, because they wouldn’t let them be together,” said Niji Jain to the Imprint. Jain was lead counsel in the case and is director of the Impact Litigation Practice at Bronx Defenders.
In total the baby was separated from Rivers for one week, during the course of which she had to travel to and from the hospital so she could see the child while she was simultaneously traveling to and from court in an attempt to get a judge to intervene, which is exactly what happened. A judge granted an emergency order and Rivers regained custody of her son, only to face several more months of inquiries, home visits, drug tests and state-mandated anger management and parenting courses. RIvers’ lawsuit alleged she was singled out and discriminated against due to her race.
“I didn’t just bring this lawsuit for myself, but for every Black family that ACS has ripped apart. They know what they did was wrong and now they’re on notice,” Rivers said in a statement released through her lawyers.
A spokesperson for ACS gave a statement on the matter after the conclusion of the lawsuit, saying they evaluate each case individually but reiterating that cannabis use alone does not necessarily mean the child is being harmed.
“In all of our cases, including those with substance misuse allegations, we assess child safety on a case-by-case basis, looking at actual or potential harm to a child and the parent’s capacity to care for the child,” the spokesperson said in a statement. “State and city policy is that a parent’s use of marijuana is not in and of itself a basis for indicating a report or filing a neglect case. This means that a case should not be indicated solely because a parent is using marijuana, but instead a child protective specialist should assess the impact, if any, on the safety and well-being of the child.”
Outside of the settlement she received, Rivers’ case is not unique. Substance abuse and cannabis use are regularly used as justification to remove newborns from their mother’s custody, and a study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association in April of this year found that Black mothers were disproportionately more likely to receive drug testing at birth than white mothers, 2.2% more likely to be exact.
B.C. Children’s Hospital Research Institute is conducting the study. Senior executive Dr. Quynh Doan said the study aims to find a faster and safer way to help youth in need before they reach the emergency room. When children come to the ER after attempting suicide, there is currently no standardized treatment. “We see them and assess their safety risk,” Doan said.
At subanesthetic doses, ketamine is a vital tool in treating depression and suicidal thoughts. Part of what makes it so unique is how quickly it works. As a 2020 study suggests, traditional antidepressants improve symptoms in about an extra 20 out of 100 people. Even for those who do respond, these antidepressants can take weeks to take effect. If someone is suicidal, they often don’t have this much time to sit around and see if such antidepressants work. There’s also a decent probability that if one is in the hospital for suicidal thoughts, they’ve already tried traditional medications, which haven’t worked.
Ketamine treatment can show results within hours to days after administration and shows unique promise for those experiencing suicidal thoughts. Although most of this research comes from using off-label intravenous infusions, in 2019, a nasal spray called Spravato (esketamine) was approved for use by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for treatment-resistant depression. A 2019 study gave patients with treatment-resistant depression received six infusions over the course of two weeks. They saw a notable improvement after the first dose, which continued to be effective in the month following. Typically, folks who receive ketamine infusions for depression or suicidal thoughts first go in for the initial six rounds. Then, they return for boosters as needed, from weekly to every few months.
And now, thanks to B.C. Children’s Hospital Research Institute, teenagers and youth may have a chance to experience such results. Suicide is the second-leading cause of death for people between 15 to 24 in the U.S., and almost 20% of high school students report severe thoughts of suicide. Nine percent have attempted to take their lives, according to the National Alliance on Mental Illness.
“If we find that this works and is safe, we could give ketamine to kids who are distressed with acute suicidal thoughts in the emergency department, get them feeling better while resources can be put in place and the psychotherapy or the antidepressants start working,” Doan said in a statement. This would allow the patients to recover in the comfort of their families. “If we can set up a safety plan at home, then the young person goes home and their family watches them like a hawk for the next few days and weeks,” Doan said.
The study (there is currently a similar one happening in San Diego) includes kids between the ages of ten to 16 with suicidal urges. They aim to have 96 patients for the pilot. Each patient will get one of three options: a low dose of ketamine, a placebo, or another kind of sedative. They will then be monitored over the next hours to weeks.
B.C. Children’s Hospital Research Institute plans to measure the recovery of the patients using three different scales. Whichever is most effective will be implemented on a larger version of the study. Doan aims to conduct the following research at 11 locations across Canada to collect even more data on this potentially life-saving treatment. “If using ketamine works for children and youth with suicidal ideation, it’s going to dramatically improve how we take care of these kids,” Doan said. “It will change the experience of youth and families dealing with this challenging condition.”
A new study has shown that cannabis use during pregnancy is not associated with differences in the neurodevelopment of children exposed to cannabis in the womb. The study, which was published last month in the peer-reviewed journal Paediatric and Perinatal Epidemiology last month, found that prenatal cannabis exposure was not associated with lower scores on neuropsychological tests in children or with autism among young adults.
“Prenatal marijuana exposure was not associated with secondary outcomes or risks of clinical deficit in any neuropsychological assessments,” the authors of the study wrote.
To conduct the study, researchers affiliated with Columbia University and the University of Western Australia, Perth used data on 2,868 children from the Raine Study, one of the world’s largest prospective cohorts of pregnancy, childhood, adolescence and adulthood, to analyze the progression of prenatal cannabis exposure from pregnancy through age 20. The children in the study underwent neuropsychological testing at age 10, and again as young adults aged 19 or 20.
The researchers designed the study to control for a wide range of clinical and sociodemographic factors that might affect the outcome of the results. The study was also conducted over a long time span, much longer than other studies that have attempted to investigate the potential outcomes of prenatal cannabis exposure. Because of the study’s characteristics and its robust sample size, the research helps provide a better idea of what prenatal cannabis exposure can do to unborn children.
With the study’s controls in place to account for confounding factors, the researchers found no association between exposure to cannabis in the womb and neurodevelopmental outcomes. Specifically, the authors of the study determined that prenatal exposure to marijuana “was not associated with worse neuropsychological test scores at age 10 or autistic traits at 19-20,” according to their conclusions.
The researchers noted limitations of their study, including changes in the average potency of cannabis products and evolving methods of ingesting the drug over the last few decades. The researchers studied children born between 1989 and 1992, meaning they were likely exposed to less potent cannabis than what is available today. The researchers noted that “further research is warranted in a more contemporary birth cohort with a range of neuropsychological outcomes to further elucidate the effect of prenatal marijuana exposure on neurodevelopment.”
Other Research Inconclusive
The results of previous studies investigating the effects of prenatal cannabis exposure have been inconsistent. Some studies have shown an increase in neurodevelopmental differences such as autism, ADHD and anxiety in children who were exposed to cannabis in the womb, while others have not revealed such associations.
A systematic review of available research published in 2020 found that cannabis use during pregnancy may be associated with ADHD and related symptoms such as anxiety in children exposed to cannabis in utero. A separate study published the same year found that children whose mothers used cannabis while pregnant were 50% more likely to be diagnosed with autism. However, some experts note these studies may not be reliable because of limitations including problems with the methodology of the original research the studies are based on and small sample sizes.
Like the study published last month, other research has not found associations between prenatal cannabis exposure and neurodevelopmental problems in children.
A 2021 study found no association between cannabis exposure in the womb and autism when confounding factors such as the education of the mother and the use of alcohol and tobacco were controlled for. Another study published this year found that when maternal stress, a factor associated with both autism and cannabis use, was controlled for, no association between prenatal cannabis exposure and autism was found.
Expert Recommends Caution
Cannabis use during pregnancy is controversial, with many healthcare professionals warning that it should be avoided at all costs. Some cannabis advocates argue the dangers are overstated and that using cannabis during pregnancy can help relieve symptoms of morning sickness and alleviate stress, allowing pregnant women to get the nutrition and rest they need for a healthy pregnancy, among other benefits.
Dr. Peter Grinspoon, a primary care physician at Harvard Medical School and Massachusetts General Hospital and the author of “Seeing Through The Smoke: A Cannabis Specialist Untangles the Truth About Marijuana,” believes that there is still too much that is not known about how the drug can affect an unborn baby and cautions against cannabis use during pregnancy.
“It has not been conclusively demonstrated that cannabis is (or isn’t) safe during pregnancy or breastfeeding. As such, the prudent thing to do is to presume that cannabis use, especially regular, heavy cannabis use, is unsafe during pregnancy and breastfeeding until we uncover reasonable evidence that it is safe,” Grinspoon writes in the book. “Given what’s at stake, the burden of proof is on cannabis in this case. That means cannabis ought to be avoided or minimized by anyone who is pregnant or breastfeeding. Women who might become pregnant need to be carefully educated about the risks.”
‘Copycat’ edible cannabis harms children, so says Health Canada. They’re warning cannabis consumers to only purchase cannabis that is “legal and regulated’ from “authorized retailers” who provide products in “plain packaging with child-resistant features.” Now, for the non-consumer or occasional consumer, this sounds reasonable. You wouldn’t purchase whiskey in an unlabeled bottle made in someone’s bathtub. And you certainly wouldn’t leave this unmarked bottle around children, where it can be mistaken for iced tea. But for many, cannabis is a […]
The UMC Utrecht Brain Center, in collaboration with various organizations in the Netherlands, will receive about $1.5 million (€1.4 million) from the Dutch government. Bedrocan announced the study on March 20. Previous research shows that CBD reduced seizures in children with specific epilepsy-related syndromes.
U.K.-based Cannabis Health Newsreports that via the government’s or ZonMW’s Good Use of Medicines program, researchers will use the money and launch a four-year research project delving into the effects of high-CBD oil in children living with severe epilepsy.
Researchers will administer whole-plant high-CBD oil, Bedrolite from the Dutch Transvaal pharmacy, which is made using cannabis produced by Bedrocan. Fifty participants will join the trial which is planned to kick off in the summer. The first patients are expected to begin by the end of the year.
Researchers will study if the oil is effective in reducing frequency of seizures. They’ll also monitor other “quality of life markers” such as seizure length, sleep, and alertness. Patients must not have previously used CBD oil for the treatment of epilepsy and/or seizures and must have a minimum of eight seizures or more every four weeks.
“Our research focuses on the individual. Instead of looking at a group, we look at whether the drug is effective per patient,” said lead researcher, Floor Jansen, who is a pediatric neurologist. “We want to investigate whether the number of attacks decreases, but we also pay attention to other important outcomes for a patient. Think of less use of emergency medication against prolonged attacks, a change in alertness or a better night’s sleep.”
Rare, intractable forms of epilepsy have not been studied well enough. Researchers will look at individual cases instead of looking at a group as a whole in order to determine whether the drug is effective for each patient.
Intractable Epilepsy is a charity that raises funding to assist families pay for private cannabis prescriptions. Jo Griffiths, chair of Intractable Epilepsy said she would like to see the U.K. match the €1.4 million for randomized control trials (RCTs) on Bedrocan products.
“Intractable Epilepsy supports families with private medicinal cannabis costs, once it has been prescribed for at least six months,” Griffiths said. “But some families cannot even afford a private consultation. To help every child and young adult with intractable epilepsy access full-extract medicinal cannabis, the government and health providers are saying gold standard RCTs are needed. Therefore, we are calling on the U.K. government to match the Dutch government’s €1.4 million towards trials, and to run an NHS trial using the same oils.”
“The NHS has prescribed the very same oils to two children in the U.K. over the past four years, while others pay privately and some families are looking to the unregulated black market,” she said.
Alongside RCTs, Intractable Epilepsy is seeking an observational study to examine the effects of whole-plant cannabis oils on people who have already found success with the compound.
“Alongside a UK RCT, we would like to see the observational trial recommended by the Health Select Committee in 2019, for those already taking full-extract oils,” she added.
“It would be prudent of the government and the NHS to take part in these trials to build the evidence base that over 50 children have proven over the last four years.”
The study will launch this summer, and the first patients are expected to be treated by the end of 2023.
You could tell me it’s November (it’s actually March), and I’d probably believe you. This is to say that I only just realized that, shit! It’s time to pop seeds once again. I’ve been unsure of doing it, knowing the time commitment that growing requires may not be best combined with the relentless demands of newborn life.
I’ve been on a years-long cannabis-growing journey, otherwise. After many years of merely consuming cannabis, happy to enjoy the fruits of other dedicated peoples’ labor, I decided a while ago that how involved I was in cannabis in my professional life didn’t quite match up with my dedication on a personal level. Sure, I was smoking a lot, which is obviously a commitment in its own right. But could I truly understand how this plant works and manifests without seeing it bloom from seed to smoke? To truly get connected, I knew I had to start growing myself.
In adulthood, I’ve really developed my love for plants, the outdoors, animals, and anything related to nature. While I thrive being surrounded by plants, keeping them alive has been a bit of a struggle for me. Succulents, monsteras, even garden tomatoes—you name it, I’ve killed it. So I was hesitant to wade into my absolute favorite plant on Earth out of sheer respect. Wasting a seed—especially one with “cool” genetics—seemed kind of sacrilege to me. But you never know if you don’t try, I reasoned, and I figured my mild terror and deep reverence for the cannabis plant would keep me in line.
It did. I’ve become a bit of a plant mommy, in addition to now becoming a human mommy, a process that was fraught with similar anxieties and overthinking. I’ll never claim I’m growing any kind of fire, far from it, but I grow purely outdoors (thanks, Southern California!), and the several harvests I’ve now reaped have been totally smokable.
As expected, growing cannabis has deepened my relationship with the plant exponentially: I understand its cycles, how each variable—weather, water, nutrients, pest control, to name just a few—contributes to the quality of the final product (or lack thereof), the rainbow spectrum of genetics and how differently they all manifest, and also, frankly, how easily it grows without any intervention at all (hence the nickname “weed”). It’s informed my reporting, my evaluation of products in the marketplace, and it’s been a mental health balm in times when getting my hands dirty was just what my body and soul needed most. It also gave me immense respect for those who do this on any kind of commercial scale for money. The plant will grow just fine on its own, but it won’t shine without the special touch of expert know-how.
I also view growing as an act of political resistance—yes, even in the age of legalization. It’s still federally illegal to grow, even in states that allow homegrow. In April 2022, I was called to be a witness in a federal cannabis case as an expert on the cannabis plant, something I was comfortable doing thanks to my experiences reporting and growing, and I admitted on the stand as part of my proving my bonafides that I had grown cannabis before.
“You’re aware that a lot of the things you just listed as part of your qualifications, growing weed, for example, is illegal?” the prosecutor asked me while I was on the stand.
“Yes,” I replied.
“What quantity did you grow it in?” she asked.
“Under six plants, per California regulations,” I said.
“And do you also know that, regardless of your personal feelings about them, you still have to follow the federal marijuana laws in this country?” she asked.
“Yes,” I replied, while the right side of my face twitched a little bit.
I know enough to know that nobody’s prosecuting federal cannabis cases for homegrowers anymore, so I’d be safe. But I was definitely sweating bullets nonetheless. Federal court will do that to you. Still, it felt like an important moment of defiance. Especially considering many states with adult-use legal cannabis sales and consumption have outlawed homegrow entirely. That’s not just a force of the government, but something lobbied for and enacted specifically by cannabis industry lobbyists and so-called “advocacy” groups, like the New York Medical Cannabis Industry organization and others across the nation, who often represent the interests of monied cannabis corporations.
As for me this year, I’ve decided I’m going to pop some seeds after all and line up a few clones, just in case the aforementioned goes sideways. I’ll do the best I can (my baby is due late May) and allow myself room for distraction while making sure to tag in my husband to help hand water. If my grow fails and I become engulfed by my baby, which is entirely possible, I’ll know it’s just the way things are meant to be for this season and allow myself some grace.
But mostly, I have visions of myself with a baby strapped to my chest, sitting on the earth and slowly trimming leaves under the San Diego sun. It’s an idyllic vision to look forward to (if potentially unrealistic), and it excites me for what’s to come. I’m hoping that in any free moments I can steal, these growing female plants will remind me of the transformation that took place in my own womb and that they’ll offer me a mental salve in the difficult days of early motherhood. That it’s a female plant, a mother plant, whose bloom is healing and beneficial is not lost on me at all. I feel like I have to start the growing process, at least, seeing as I’m about to pop new life myself.
On March 16, the Tennessee Democratic Caucus demanded that five children taken during a traffic stop by law enforcement be returned to their parents immediately.
On February 16, a traffic stop conducted by Tennessee Highway Patrol (THP) pulled over Deonte Williams, Bianca Clayborne, and their five children (a four-month-old infant, and kids ages two, three, five and seven), who were all traveling to a funeral. While the stop was originally due to the vehicle having a “dark tint and traveling in the left lane while not actively passing,” five grams of cannabis were found in Williams’s possession.
Williams was arrested, and Clayborne was cited but not arrested. She was told by THP that she could follow a patrol car back to the Coffee County Justice Center to bail Williams out. Six hours after the traffic stop occurred, Clayborne waited with her five children on a bench inside the criminal justice center, until her kids “were forcibly removed from her side while an officer restrained her from reaching for her crying baby,” she told Tennessee Lookout. During the time she was waiting, the Department of Children’s Service (DCS) obtained an emergency court order to take custody of the kids while she waited for Williams.
According to the DCS petition obtained by Tennessee Lookout, the DCS believed that the children were neglected, and that there was no “less drastic” alternative than taking the kids away.
“It’s just so shocking to the conscience that in 2023 this is happening,” said one of the couple’s attorneys, Jamaal Boykin. “I just have to believe if my clients looked different or had a different background, they would have just been given a citation and told you just keep this stuff away from the kids while you’re in this state and they’d be on their way.”
It’s been over a month since the incident, and the children still have not been returned to the family. Clayborne is currently breastfeeding her youngest child and has seen a drastic reduction in milk supply in the absence of her baby. She’s also suffered from lack of sleep and a panic attack.
The events of this incident have reached state legislators who are now also speaking up about the injustice.
Sen. London Lamar referred to the events as “ridiculous” and “overuse of power.” “DCS, Coffee County, y’all need to do the right thing before the situation gets worse, and we have a nation of people coming to the rescue of this Black family,” Lamar said. “Give them their children back. It’s borderline discrimination, because if this was any other family, as their attorney said, we don’t even think this would be the outcome.”
Sen. Raumesh Akbari also spoke out about keeping families together. “It is outrageous that the state forcefully separated Bianca Clayborne, a breastfeeding mother, and Deonte Williams from their kids and have allowed this to continue for nearly a month,” Akbari said. “The state exercised extreme and flawed judgment in taking their children and it seems they’ve doubled down on this poor decision. No family is perfect, but an imperfection, like a simple marijuana charge, is no excuse for tearing a family apart. The state is supposed to support reunification. If they don’t have a better reason, they must immediately return these five children to their parents.”
When Tennessee Lookout reached out to DCS for a statement, they did not respond for comment. Reaching out to the THP for a request of the traffic stop officers was denied because of an ongoing investigation.
An instant hair follicle test on both Williams and Clayborne was conducted at their first court appearance, which occurred one week after the children were taken by DCS. Tennessee Lookoutspoke with an unnamed Coffee County administrator, who explained that in general, hair follicle tests are “inadmissible” in court because they can potentially result in false positives.
“This is even more reprehensible when the drug test used to justify keeping these children in foster care is known to be ‘inadmissible’ by the county’s own court administrator,” said the couple’s other attorney, Courtney Teasley.
Teasley shared on Twitter how concerned citizens can help. “We’ve received many requests of ppl wanting to help disrupt with their dollars. If you would like to support #DisruptManchester Here is the link to donate: http://Donorbox.org/disruptmanchestmanchester… Thank you all for helping disrupt a system of oppression!” Teasley wrote on Twitter on March 18.
On March 20, Teasley invited all concerned citizens who want to help bring attention to the issue to court watch the ongoing case, and attend a press conference in front of the courthouse in Manchester, Tennessee.
Doris sputtered to her husband, coughing out a huge bluish cloud of Hawaiian X Super Skunk #1 spiked with a touch of Master Kush, which drifted toward what they thought was their locked bedroom door and swirled about the head of their “I can’t sleep” six-year-old. Arthur, an inquisitive, intelligent and, to be honest, somewhat pushy offspring, stared at his parents in disbelief from the foot of the bed, his attention fixed on the gigantic spliff that Mommy was passing to Daddy to “help them sleep.” Unfortunately, Arthur had just attended his first Drug Awareness Day at school, and he had a lot of questions. Luckily, Arthur’s parents had yet to commence the Vulcan Mind Meld, sparing young Arthur many years of future therapy.
“But you said you don’t smoke cigarettes. You said they were bad.”
“That’s right, Arthur, they are bad,” explained Dad. “But this isn’t a cigarette—really.” Doris blanched. “Steve, you’re confusing him.” Arthur’s cute brown eyes narrowed as he gave his parents that intense look he reserved for little league, girls and liars. “I know what it is. It’s a joint! They told us about that at school.”
“Who told you it was a joint?”
“Jack the policeman. He came to our class and showed us a cigarette just like that one!” said Arthur, pointing at the funny-looking “cigarette” with two pointy ends and a big bulge in the middle. “You lied!” he yelled, pointing at his father. Steve looked in desperation at his wife. “Come here, honey,” Doris said softly, as Arthur climbed onto the bed. “Mom and Dad need to talk to you about something.”
Doris and Steve are wrestling with an increasingly common dilemma among parents who smoke pot: just what to tell their young and pre-teen kids about the mighty herb. The nation’s airwaves and cable markets are saturated with carefully crafted, government-sponsored “public service ads” designed to scare, shame, intimidate and coerce kids into not smoking pot. There’s the cheery Investigator, which glamorizes parents who give their kids the third degree, grilling them mercilessly for information about their activities and friends just like, well, cops. In Pick Up, a stoner forgets to pick up his kid brother. Another one, Pool, shows a toddler pushing a raft into a swimming pool, presumably to follow the raft in, while a casual, low-key voiceover intones: “Just tell your parents you weren’t watching her, because you were getting stoned.”
No wonder intelligent parents who want to have a toke or two after a hard day have been looking at various methods of raising kids and having their reefer, too.
Let’s start with something we can all agree on: Kids should not smoke pot. Just as you don’t start the day by handing your six-year-old a tumbler of Jack Daniels and firing up his Camel, parents should not be in the business of getting kids stoned—just ask former Hollywood child-tokers and subsequent rehab-grads Robert Downey Jr. and Drew Barrymore, both of whom were exposed to grass at a tender age by their swinging-’60s parents and the crowds they ran in.
Parents should follow NORML’s (National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws) guide-lines for responsible marijuana use:
“NORML believes that marijuana smoking is not for kids and should only be used responsibly by adults. As with alcohol consumption, it must never be an excuse for misconduct or other bad behavior. Driving or operating heavy equipment while impaired from marijuana should be prohibited.”
Nonetheless, in the real world, 20 million Americans say they have toked the bone during the past year, and despite findings that reefer reduces sperm count, millions of these proud and unashamed potheads are now raising, or have raised, kids who aren’t one-eyed freaks, Charlie Mansonites or pinheads, thereby refuting the myth that pot causes genetic mutations (at least not the visible kinds, which in America, the land of fleeting images, are the only ones that count). Of course, herb—like alcohol, nicotine and mercury-laden tuna—is another substance that has no place in a woman’s body during pregnancy. However, once the pregnancy is over and the child has finished breast-feeding, many parents return to smoking pot, for all the good reasons: responsible recreation and relaxation.
The New York Times recently reported that in a poll conducted by RoperASW, as many as one in 10 American parents of children under 18—about six million people—said they had smoked herb in the past 12 months. One in 20 parents, or about three million people, said they had smoked in the preceding month. The number of Americans who lit up in the last 15 minutes was unavailable, but considering the reluctance of those still holding jobs, or respected members of highly paid role-model professions—i.e., doctors, lawyers, teachers, talkradio jocks, governors—to admit to being anything other than a pharmaceutical junkie in Ashcroft’s America, one suspects that the number of regular tokers is a lot higher than reported. Life in prison in three-strike states like Texas is less than appealing; then again, it’s not Malaysia, where, if you get caught sucking on a joint, a swift trial is soon followed by death.
But short of that, getting nabbed blowing a doob in front of the children can have grave consequences, chief among them losing your kids.
Frank and Sara are the parents of Jake, a 10-month-old baby who was properly strapped in the back in his car seat when his parents were pulled over by cops in Oregon.
“First of all,” Frank told High Times, “the cop just said, ‘Give me the pot, or we’ll search the car.’ So my wife handed him the baggie! I was flabbergasted.” The cops separated the couple. “There was Good Cop and Psycho Cop. First Psycho Cop wanted to know if there was anyone higher than me. How could there be,” laughed Frank, “since I’d been drinking Scotch, too!” An incorrigible wise-ass, Frank’s flippant comeback—“Pablo Escobar?”—didn’t go over well, either. “Sara was only stoned, but her license had expired, which gave another new wrinkle to the situation. Then I got the Good Cop, while Nut Cop went to work on my wife.”
“It freaked me out,” recalled Sara. “The first thing he said is that they can take our son away for this. Then the cop gave me his card and said I had three days to rat out whoever sold us the pot. But we talked to the ACLU, who told us they were full of shit.”
“We never smoke in the car anymore, ” Frank added ruefully. “We shouldn’t have been smoking and driving in the first place.”
Both the US and Canadian governments use draconian drug laws to hassle groups and individuals who refuse to toe the antipot line, claiming that marijuana use—not to mention political activism—creates unfit parents. Divorced parents have used the marijuana laws to smite their mates, especially in nasty custody battles. Debra Cannistrad, a medical-cannabis user living in the San Joaquin Valley of California, was threatened by an ex-spouse for custody of her 12-year-old daughter and 14-year-old son, two days after holding a vigil for a jailed cannabis researcher. Fortunately for Debra, the father—a deadbeat dad—outpoints Debra for parental malfeasance, but nonetheless, the use of a joint as a loaded gun is an indication of the emergence of a snitch society, a la the late Soviet Union.
Other situations are even more bizarre. A couple in Washington State lost their daughter immediately after birth when hospital workers, without their knowledge or consent, tested both the mother and her newborn girl for cannabis. When both tested positive, doctors blamed minor medical problems with the baby on her mother’s cannabis use and accused her of endangering the child’s life. The baby was isolated and the mother not allowed to breast-feed her. The child was returned to the couple in a week, but they were first made to sign a contract with 13 conditions, including urine-testing, mental-health evaluations and agreeing to allow state inspectors to enter their home anytime they damned well pleased. So much for the Fourth Amendment. Once again, this woman obviously should not have been toking up during any stage of her pregnancy—but does that justify the extreme measures the hospital took?
As kids get older, the dilemma for parents who smoke pot gets even more problematic.
Even in a city as sophisticated and progressive as New York, there is a wide divergence in attitudes and styles among the city’s parents regarding their kids and pot, which one suspects mirrors the nation’s attitude as well.
Tahisa, an urban planner, and her husband are raising a 14-year-old boy and a 10-year-old girl in New York’s most fashionably transgressive neighborhood, the East Village. She’s a pioneer, having lived in the EV more than 20 years, arriving long before the neighborhood’s recent resurgence and ultra-gentrification. Many of the tenement apartments, abandoned and trashed in the 1980s, now go for $2,500 a month, and uptown hipsters who once came to Avenue B for cocaine and heroin today travel downtown for gourmet coffee shops, expensive punk jewelry and haute cuisine. It’s now a prime residential neighborhood, attracting middle-class parents with children; its playgrounds and community gardens are packed with kids.
“I smoked when my kids were small, so they always saw us smoking, and all our friends smoke. So we never had to tell them that we smoke; they saw us smoke,” said Tahisa. When their kids started school, they started getting the standard anti-drug diatribes. Tahisa told them it was propaganda. “We told them pot was really good, that birds eat it, and that tobacco is much worse for you. Our biggest concerns were tobacco and glue-sniffing.”
Part of Tahisa’s agenda was to demystify pot. “We didn’t want to make pot seem so deviant that our kids would be attracted to it. We didn’t want to sneak around. If we were going to do this, we shouldn’t have to hide it. If they saw it as just a normal thing, we thought they would probably decide not to do it.”
Amy, a close friend of Tahisa’s, is medical researcher, and with her husband Ron, a media consultant, they have taken a similar tack with their 12-year-old son and eight-year-old daughter. “Pot is so much a part of our lifestyle, the kids take it for granted.” Amy, her husband and their friends have smoked weed for more than 30 years and have no intention of stopping. “When our kids have friends over—especially ones who we don’t know—we go into the bathroom, or up on the roof, to get high. And we certainly don’t buy pot with them around, say if a dealer comes to our home. But after all, this is the East Village.”
At a certain age, when Amy felt her kids were ready, she told them that she and Ron weren’t smoking cigarettes. “Then we went on to say that what we do is okay, but it’s against the law,” said Amy, “and we could go to jail for it if certain people found out.”
You don’t want to see Mommy and Daddy in an orange jumpsuit in chains behind bars, do you? That’s pretty effective. Amy and Ron also explained that not every law is good or just and that what they were doing wasn’t wrong; that some drugs, like medicines, are good, and other drugs, like heroin, cocaine, nicotine, PCP, glue, Ecstasy and acid, are very, very bad. “When they started school,” said Amy, “we told them never to mention that we smoke anything at all. And it’s surprising how well they understand.”
This medical tack is similar to the one used in a forthcoming 2005 children’s book, Just a Plant (justaplant.com) by Ricardo Cortes, an educator and Webmaster of the art-and-culture website magicpropagandamill.com. The book tells the story of a little girl who discovers her parents smoking marijuana. Cortes then follows the efforts of the family to rationally explain to their daughter just what pot is and what it does.
“She goes to a farm, and the farmer talks to her about how it grows, how it has seeds and how it’s used for a lot of different things,” says Cortes. “People use corn for eating, people use marijuana for making canvas, paper, etc. Then there’s a medicinal aspect: How does it affect the body? In the story, she goes to a doctor to find out about it. He tells her patients use it as a medicine; there are many plants used as medicine. The doctor also explains that because it’s a medicine, it’s not something for children.”
Cortes takes care in the book to explain that there are things adults can do that kids can’t: driving a car, having a glass of wine, drinking coffee. Then he deals skillfully with the illegality of pot. “At that point in the story, the child is like, I learned everything there is to know about pot, and it sounds beautiful.’ But if you just stop there, that’s dangerous, because now the little girl goes to school and says, ‘Yeah, my mom smokes pot!”’
In the story, the girl then stumbles upon some kids smoking a joint and tells them she knows what they’re smoking. Then the cops roll up for the last lesson of the story: It’s illegal. Cortes brings in the history of Prohibition and tries to portray the cops as good guys, to an extent, by stressing that there are laws they don’t like enforcing. “The cop says that this is how our country works,” Cortes explains, “and if you want to change a law, there are certain ways to go about it.”
But as Tahisa found, as children get older, social institutions intervene to make changes in a parent’s pot policy. “We stopped smoking for awhile because we could see our kids were being pressured at school. They gave a citywide questionnaire to the kids. We kept our son home from school that day because he told us about it, and it was really like: Rat out your parents and rat out your friends. We didn’t want to put him on the spot by making him have to lie, so we stopped smoking.”
But old habits die hard for parents who grew up in the ’60s and ’70s. “My husband still doesn’t smoke pot, but I started again. Because, in the words of Louis Armstrong, it relaxes me,” Tahisa said with a smile.
Other parents take an entirely opposite approach to herb and kids; one of hide and deny. Dennis and his wife Dee are raising twin girls, now 13 years old. Both girls are very bright and go to top-tier public schools on the Upper West Side of Manhattan.
“I don’t tell them. That’s it,” Dennis laughed, then became serious. “There’re two ways to deal with it. One is how I deal with it when I want to get stoned, which is to go into the bathroom, open the window and lock the door. That kind of works, although one time we were out on Fire Island and I had smoked a joint in the bathroom, and my daughter goes in right afterwards and says, ‘Dad, that incense you burned really stinks!’ She was 11 or 12—they don’t know anything.”
Dennis fears that his daughter will be at a rock concert and somebody will be smoking a joint near her, and, says Dennis, “Her friends will say, ‘Oh, it’s pot!’ And she’s going to say, ‘Oh, no it’s not, it’s incense!’ And she’s going to look like an idiot and figure out that I lied.” Dennis has also gone to extremes to conceal his THC jones by concocting marijuana butter. “The feeling was that smoking is bad for you, so I’ll try a different way of doing this. I thought that if I could get this down, I wouldn’t have to go to the bathroom to smoke. I’d go to the refrigerator!” Dennis cooked up a butter recipe he found in High Times, but the project backfired. “We ate the butter, went to a party, had a great time, got really, really stoned—like we were tripping—and then we went out to dinner by ourselves. And we were both super-paranoid, terrified, and we stayed stoned for the next two days.”
The problem with the hide-and-deny method is, what do you tell your children when they inevitably ask? Do you tell them the truth? “They hear in school that marijuana sucks,” says Dennis. “We were on a long drive, and one of my daughters asked my wife if she ever smoked pot. And I’m thinking, ‘What is she going to say? It’s never come out that direct.’ And she said no. Then I’m thinking, ‘What am I gonna say? Yeah?’ Then my daughter said, ‘Dad, and you?’ And I said no, and she said, ‘Good.’ I think it’s a scary thing to be asked, because of what they see on TV and what it means, like breaking the law. They’re brainwashed. And I don’t want them smoking pot, you know? When they’re in college, they can smoke pot. I don’t think they should be smoking pot in junior high school or high school—even if I did!”
That brainwashing is orchestrated straight from the top, at the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP). ONDCP reports directly to the president, and it serves as a kind of amorphous umbrella organization for all of the precisely calibrated “campaigns” that “target” parents and young people with misleading and disingenuous public-service advertisements. ONDCP coordinates overall drug policy, along with the efforts of other government/business coalitions such as the Partnership for a Drug-Free America, to keep America scared of marijuana with recent media campaigns like Parents: The Anti-Drug and My Anti-Drug, specifically directed at kids. ONDCP’s Ad Gallery features such gems as Wallet, in which a young teen takes us down to the basement to meet his wasted, long-haired, glassy-eyed older brother, who looks more like a dope addict than a pothead, and who “never did anything at all.”
From the National Youth Anti-Drug Media Campaign, the creators of Parents: The Anti-Drug (theantidrug.com), comes Slam, a truly vicious commercial teeming with violence and anger, in which a father and his teenage daughter yell and scream with vein-popping animus (“I hate you!”), slamming the door repeatedly in each other’s faces, after Dad covertly searches his daughter’s room and finds—horror of horrors—a bag of pot! Once again, so much for the Fourth Amendment, at least if you’re under 18. By the way, the daughter in the spot looks well over the age of consent. The commercial condones this kind of despotic, foaming-at-the-mouth behavior with an ambiguous admonition to parents at the end: “Afraid of a few slammed doors? Get over it. Because to help your kid with their problem, first you have to get over yours.” Let’s look at this statement: At first it seems to imply that the parents should get rid of their explosive anger, but actually it justifies this oppressive approach. The problem parents have to get over is their reluctance to get violent and hysterical. Obviously compromise, conflict resolution and reasoned argument are for sissies.
The National Youth Anti-Drug Media Campaign also sponsors My Anti-Drug (freevibe.com), which brings us, in Spanish, Dummies, featuring the famed crash-test dummies (which used to promote seat belts) toking it up and getting into a devastating accident in a lab dedicated to making accidents happen. You don’t have to speak Spanish to figure out La Causa. Ads also come in Cambodian, Chinese, Korean and Vietnamese. Dummies mines the same vein of malleable truth and outright mendacity as the spot with the poor Hispanic kid mourning the loss of a friend in a traffic accident and blaming it on pot. What the ad fails to mention is that accidents involving pot usually also involve alcohol. Liquor is metabolized by the body in hours, leaving pot—which can stay in the fatty tissues for months—to take the blame.
And, of course, the ad that has generated the most controversy is the 2002 Super Bowl Sunday spot that equated blowing a J with supporting international terrorism. (“Where do terrorists get their money? If you buy drugs, it might come from you.”) Presumably Osama bin Laden gets a cut from every nickel-bag sold in America. Quaffing down a sixpack is way cool, because it’s legal. Filling up your SUV with expensive gasoline from those good friends of the Bush family (and our valiant ally in the war on terrorism), the House of Saud, is also no problemo—save when the dough goes to support Muslim madrassas throughout the world where children learn that Jews are pigs and monkeys, the United States is the Great Satan, and the lust for death is far more powerful than the lust for life. Think of it as No Terrorist Left Behind.
It’s swell for Budweiser to spend 50 G’s a second to keep people drinking beer—that’s free enterprise. It is quite another thing for the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy to spend over $1.6 million each for two 30-second ads during the Super Bowl, the biggest media market in the United States, to blast government propaganda down the throats of 130 million people. Since 1997, over a five-year period, approximately $1 billion has been allocated to paid media—your tax dollars at work, on behalf of ad agencies and TV networks. And most studies have shown that these scare tactics increase, rather then lessen, a kid’s curiosity about illegal substances. The moronic This Is Your Brain on Drugs campaign, which likened the Stoner’s cerebrum to an egg in a frying pan, became one of the most parodied and ridiculed advertisements of its day.
Maybe it’s time to allow parents who smoke pot to raise their children their own way, exercising responsibility and good judgment, and with the guidance, honesty and intuition that only a parent can bring to their children’s lives. Take the billions being squandered on frightening our kids and freaking out their parents, and turn it over to libraries, colleges and our sorely underfunded public schools—or return it to the taxpayers as a rebate, so the citizens of America can finally afford some decent herb.
A chorus of experts are growing concerned about the prevalence of candy-flavored cannabis products and other flavors that appeal to children in states with legal cannabis.
Part of the uproar was spurred when a New York official showed a watermelon-flavored cannabis edible product to the local media amid the state’s first days of adult-use cannabis sales, taking place earlier this month.
The Associated Pressreports that pressure is mounting to address the way cannabis products allegedly target children, with several individuals chiming in with expertise in epidemiology and tobacco control research.
“We should learn from the nicotine space, and I certainly would advocate that we should place similar concern on cannabis products in terms of their appealability to youth,” said Katherine Keyes, a professor of epidemiology at Columbia University.
“If you go through a cannabis dispensary right now,” she said, “it’s almost absurd how youth oriented a lot of the packaging and the products are.”
New York’s adult-use cannabis market recently kicked off. The state’s adult-use law bans marketing and advertising that is designed in any way that appeals to children or other minors.
But the state’s Office of Cannabis Management (OCM) has not yet established defined rules on labeling, packaging, and advertising. What would a ban look like? Some concepts would ban images of food, candy, soda, drinks, cookies, or cereal on packaging. OCM officials believe these images could appeal to minors.
“Consumers need to be aware—parents need to be aware—if they see products that look like other products that are commonly marketed to kids, that’s an illicit market product,” said Lyla Hunt, OCM’s deputy director of public health and campaigns.
But when OCM Chief Chris Alexander showed a watermelon-flavored edible product to the media at New York’s first licensed adult-use cannabis store, people’s heads were rolling.
Per New York law, minors caught in possession of cannabis face a civil penalty of a maximum of $50. Licensed cannabis retailers who are caught selling to minors face fines and the potential loss of their licenses, but no jail time.
“When you’re talking about strawberry-cheesecake, or mango, or cookies-and-cream flavors, it’s very difficult to argue that those are for older adults,” said Dr. Pamela Ling, the director for the Center for Tobacco Control Research and Education at the University of California in San Francisco.
“Folks who consider themselves to be more like cannabis aficionados,” she said, “would say that smoking a flavored cannabis product is like putting ketchup on your steak.”
Haven’t We Heard this Before?
“Won’t somebody please think of the children?” Helen Lovejoy said on The Simpsons. Most adults store cannabis products in a place that’s out of reach from children and teenagers.
Similar bans on flavored tobacco products have taken place in numerous states over the last few years. The same hysteria has made its way into the cannabis industry.
In Massachusetts in 2019, members of the state’s House of Representatives voted to prohibit the sale of flavored tobacco and vape products. And that’s not all. The vaping products that remain legal will be subject to a whopping 75 excise tax.