NAPA, CA — A man was placed into handcuffs, a woman sobbed uncontrollably, and their 11-month-old boy was seized by social workers and put into foster care — all because of legally prescribed medical marijuana. It didn’t matter that no law had been broken; Child Protective Services has the power to split apart families in an instant without a trial, and regularly does across the country.
This heartbreaking situation happened to California couple Shawnee Anderson, 27, and Aaron Hillyer, 34. After a nosy neighbor called the police because of a loud argument, cops arrived and found doctor-prescribed cannabis — legal for medicinal use in a total of 20 states.
The couple tried to explain that the plant material was not a crime, and that the couple had state-issued Medical Marijuana ID Cards. But the cops “didn’t want to see them.” What’s more, they wanted to remove take their son, Sage, away from them. The police called for CPS to arrive at the scene.
“I was pleading with them, ‘Look, you guys, I understand your perception, but we are wonderful parents, hardworking members of our community,’” Hillyer told CNN. “They could not conceive of the fact that you can be a wonderful parent, a decent human being, and medicate with marijuana.”
“Why are you doing this?” Anderson tearfully asked the government agents as she watched her family being split apart before her eyes.
“Your baby doesn’t need to be subjected to marijuana,” an officer retorted, in a recording made on a cell phone. The fact that the house was messy, with an odor of cannabis, was enough for the government to break apart the family.
Aaron Hillyer was arrested and 11-month-old Sage was put into foster care. The family describes it as the hardest thing they could imagine — their baby was given away to strangers. They would not be reunited for 12 days.
The commonly-used cannabis plant is an easy target for child-snatching agencies — even if it is legal. The agency can deem virtually anything “abusive” or “neglectful” at their discretion. The targets of CPS are punished first, then attempt to prove their innocence later. The American tradition of treating people as if they are “innocent until proven guilty” is lost on CPS.
“There are families out there … destroyed over a medicinal plant,” said Hillyer to CNN. “It’s baffling.”
Baffling — yet the stories are numerous. Many decent families face harassment and separation because of the plant. Fellow California parents, Scott and Sara Rolick, had their daughter seized when the grandfather allegedly used cannabis as medicine. Sometimes just advocating for a political position on marijuana is enough to bring down a state investigation of a family — as the Petro family of Florida is discovering.
Many more of these tragic stories can be expected as long as CPS is allowed such broad powers and as long as the Drug War continues to devastate Americans.
See the interview with Aaron and Shawnee below: