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State takes kids from parents found with small amounts of marijuana

A disturbing story in today's New York Times:

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.... A small number of parents in these cases have even lost custody of their children.

The Times tells the case of Bronx woman Penelope Harris. Police last year found 10 grams of marijuana in her apartment, which was no crime, because it was below the minimum for a misdemeanor. But they reported her to the state's child welfare agency, who quickly took her son and niece (who was staying with her), and put them both into foster care. The agency agreed to return Ms. Harris' son a week later on the condition that her boyfriend (whose pot it was) did not live in the home, that she enroll in therapy, that she submit to random drug screenings, and that caseworkers could make unannounced visits to her home. After being subjected to a lengthy investigation lasting months, Ms. Harris' case was closed without a finding of neglect.

Such state intervention is outrageous. Among other things, it shows how coercive the state's use of therapy is, interfering in the most intimate of personal relationships.

As the Times points out, the New York child welfare agency appears to have adopted a stricter line on marijuana than either the criminal courts or society at large. You don't have to be a proponent of legalizing marijuana to understand how authoritarian the state welfare agencies are acting.

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