Smoke Weed, Lose Your Kids

Today's drug war outrage comes from New York City, where possession of, or even admitted use of marijuana by parents results in child protective services taking your children away from you:

Lauren Shapiro, director of the Brooklyn Family Defense Project, which defends most parents facing neglect charges in Family Court in Brooklyn, said more than 90 percent of the cases alleging drug use that her lawyers handle involve marijuana, as opposed to other drugs.

“There is not the same use of crack cocaine as there used to be, so they are filing these cases instead,” Ms. Shapiro said.

Marijuana is the most common illicit drug in New York City: 730,000 people, or 12 percent of people age 12 and older, use the drug at least once annually, according to city health data.

Over all, the rate of marijuana use among whites is twice as high as among blacks and Hispanics in the city, the data show, but defense lawyers said these cases were rarely if ever filed against white parents.

Keep in mind that "State law makes possession of as much as 25 grams of marijuana — enough for 20 or 30 marijuana cigarettes — a violation similar to a traffic offense, punishable by a fine of up to $100." So in some cases, we're talking about people losing their children for the equivalent of running a red light. Obviously it's possible that marijuana use can be an indication of neglect, but it's not inherently the case. 

The disproportionate effect on minorities despite drug use being higher among whites is a consistent artifact of the war on drugs. The eyes and arms of the state are just have a far stronger presence in communities of color, and tacit assumptions about class and cultural pathology inevitably have an influence on which parents ultimately are viewed as a danger to their own children. 

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