Marijuana and Foster Care

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In California, the official Policy is to prove that there is harm to the child due to the marijuana use…   Should medical marijuana patients loose their children because they test positive for THC? Does this type of case really belong in a courtroom in post Prop 215 California?

In New York where the laws are tougher, it is the norm.

“In interviews, lawyers from the three legal services groups that the city hires to defend parents said they saw hundreds of marijuana cases each year, most involving recreational users.”
http://www.nytimes.com/2011/08/18/nyregion/parents-minor-marijuana-arrests-lead-to-child-neglect-cases.html?pagewanted=all

You do the math

In 1997 a law was passed which gives  the Department of Social Services  $4000- $6000 for each child

“After peaking at 22,884 adoptions in 2004, U.S. adoptions of children from other countries fell 44% to 12,753 in 2009. Meanwhile, adoptions of foster children rose 53% to 55,000 in 2008 from 36,000 a decade earlier, amid policy changes and increased demand by parents.”  ~ Adam Pertman,  Adoption Nation
 

 Saving the Children?  Foster Care Statistics:
80% of the US prison inmate population was in the foster care system (US Dept. of Justice, 2005)
· 70% of California’s inmates have been in the foster care system (Sacramento Bee article by John Burton [chairman of the CA Democratic Party and chairs the John Burton Foundation for Children Without Homes)
· Children are 11 times more likely to be abused in State care that they are in their own homes. (National Center on Child Abuse and Neglect [NCCAN])
· 90% increase of children and youth in the US foster care system since 1987. (Casey Family Programs National Center for Resource Family Support *CASEY FOUNDATION*)
· 3 out of 10 of the nations homeless are former foster children. (Casey Foundation*)
· Children in foster care are 3 to 6 times more likely to have emotional, behavioral, and developmental problems including:
· Conduct disorders
· Depression
· Difficulties in school
· Impaired social relationships
(Casey Foundation*)
· Approximately 30% of foster children have marked or severe emotional problems. (Casey Foundation*)
· Children and youth in foster care tend to have limited education and job skills and perform poorly in school compared to children NOT in care. (Casey Foundation*)
· Children in foster care lag behind their education by at LEAST one year and have lower educational attainment than the general population. (Casey Foundation*)
· Children in foster care are 5.25 times more like to die as a result of abuse than children in the general population. (CPS Watch Inc.)
· 2.1 % of ALL CHILD FATALITIES took place in foster care. (CPS Watch Inc.)

 

A Letter From Judy Beres

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Dear Joe,

I am writing to you from my husband’s email because since this has happened, I have not dealt with the internet as it overwhelms me.  In any case, these are the facts of my case:

On August 20, 2010 the house that I own and live in was raided at approximately 7:10 a.m. When the police came in, I was walking my dogs and my 6 year old son was home in the care of my 40 year old nephew who lived downstairs in our rec room. I walked into the raid, (which I thought was a probation violation for my nephew) and they arrested and charged me with Possession for Sales, Cultivation, Possession of Cocaine (personal amount of my husband’s),Child Abuse and Gun enhancements.

These enhancements were called “drug lord laws,” with the intent to punish big drug operations with arsenals of weapons to back them against possible raids by rival gangs or even police. The guns seized and used to charge me with this enhancement were my husband’s inherited heirloom guns, consisting of antique shotguns and rifles that were more like showpieces than weapons, and classified by our weapons expert as a “Gentleman’s Gun Collection.”

I was released on $100,000 bail and I have worked with the Edelman’s children’s court to get my son back (which the DA wants to use against me in my case).  I had a marijuana recommendation card issued for several medical conditions including anxiety, insomnia, and menopausal symptoms for which I cannot use hormonal therapy (due to my medical history and a high cancer risk.)

My husband and 6 other members of our informal collective also had medical marijuana recommendations.  The complaint, and ensuing search warrant,  was based on the testimony of “confidential informants” who said I was a “known drug user” in the neighborhood.

I didn’t smoke pot  I ingest it before bed on nights when needed, so I wonder how anyone would know anything about my drug usage hmmmm. . .lies.

Supposedly law enforcement watched our residence (but didn’t take pictures) and cites me as leaving my nephew’s area of the house about 5 a.m.(supposedly to sell drugs ) alone (without dogs),  until I returned magically with my dogs at 7:20 or so when I walked into the raid (they say they “searched the neighborhood”).

The end result of the raid was my incarceration (6 days) and 5 felony charges, my child being taken from our home and put into the state’s custody, our plants were illegally ripped out of the ground, my husband’s heirloom firearms were seized.  They also took all the cash in the house ($800 by my calculations $400 by theirs), and our personal medical marijuana (1/2 ounce).  The house was tossed from top to bottom and the doors left wide open for all to come and pick through (so much is missing I can’t even list it all).

Total cost so far :$8,000 for bail, $30.000 for lawyers, $10.000 for therapists, $3.000 for expert testimony, grand total of $51,000 (my retirement + my sons college fund).

There were 27 (still not budding) mature plants found at our residence.  There were 4 more “teenagers” which were not budding. There were approximately 50 cuttings from the 27 outside plants, under a single LED grow light in our basement that had not even rooted. I have been told by an expert the methods he was using to ‘clone’ these cuttings come with a success rate of 20-40%. The ‘clones’ were to be next year’s outdoor plants, the ones outside (biggest one stood 4 feet tall) were to be harvested at the end of September. We only have one harvest per year! 

At my preliminary hearing, the officer cited that all 83 plants could yield a pound each in his expert opinion (I’m sure with those kind of results most growers would pay him a 6 figure income to grow for them). Just an example of how crazy a figure that is the year before my husband grew a 6 1/2 foot white widow plant, called “the monster,” and only managed to yield 4 ounces of dried medical marijuana from it.  My nephew, who has prior drug convictions and a proclaimed “civil addict”, has only been charged with possession for sales and cultivation.  There was a “pay and owe” sheet for “pills” (not marijuana) found in his area of my home, not in my handwriting, with his name on it.

My husband has claimed all responsibility for the marijuana plants, the cocaine and the guns (which were legally owned through his inheritance.)  He is currently in drug rehab and voluntarily abstains from marijuana, and any and all other illegal and mind altering substances, and has been sober since my arrest. In the past he has been prescribed many “safe” drugs for his degenerative bone disease and arthritis such as Vicodin, Norco, Percocet, Oxycontin and Codeine. He gets worse everyday and he has put on nearly 60lbs. since the arrest, because of limited mobility.  He now uses a cane to walk. His only help for the pain is anti inflammatory meds that upset his stomach ,and to stay stationary. After a short time he needs to reposition himself or the pain comes back, and for this reason he doesn’t get much deep sleep.

I’m not sure if its the lack of sleep, or the guilt he carries for this situation, but he has aged 5 years in the last one and is not the same man. He testified as to his cocaine usage at my preliminary hearing, and was rewarded with charges by the federal government for lying on a federal gun application which asks if you use illicit drugs. I believe that if the raid was based on anything at all, my husband’s or nephews behavior and had nothing to do with me. Unfortunately, he wasn’t home, and I was.

The DA has only offered me two felonies, which would invalidate my attorney and teaching credentials, and to serve a year in jail. My attorneys, Allison Margolin and Raza Lawrence, have opted to take it to trial to begin September 20, 2011at 210 W. Temple Street, Los Angeles, CA 90012.

Just to give a little background, my professional career choices have always been fueled by my passion for helping the underprivileged and disabled. I started at Goodwill Industries PR department, right out of college, but it wasn’t ‘hands on’ enough for me, I needed to be in the trenches. So I searched for a better way to make a difference and within a year or so an opportunity to help inner city youth came up and I grabbed it up. I began teaching at risk youth 25 years ago, and  continue to teach adults,  and still love the job and see the difference I make in peoples lives.

While teaching, my senior citizen mother began to fall prey to building inspectors who were trying to assist a developer in cheating her out of her home. She didn’t have money for a lawyer so I went back to school earning my JD and passing the bar, but continuing to teach because I loved it too much.

I have been an attorney for over 10 years and specialize in taking on cases that involve disabled clients (pro-bono) and also consumer bankruptcy.  I have filed appeals and motions for Third Strike inmates (pro bono). I have represented AIDS patients asserting their rights (pro bono). I have helped people keep from losing their homes to predatory lenders with unscrupulous business practices. I have been heard by the U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals representing a whistleblower (pro bono) against the State of California, in a matter that concerned the misappropriation of Federal funding for the disabled by the state of California.  We didn’t win the case, but we affected change on the congressional level because of the issues brought up in this case.

I bring all this up to let you know who I am. I am a compassionate, caring person, who wants to help people. I don’t pay many of my bills with my law practice but I get something far greater for it than money, and that is justice.

My father was disabled and I lost him at an early age for the lack of protection our system has for the disabled; my half-sister, is also, and I lost her, too, due to the lack of protection our system has for the disabled. If I don’t look out for these people, then I am buying into this horrible system that leaves the people behind who don’t have a voice.

This is who I am.  I have never been in trouble with the law, and in fact had only two traffic infractions in my life!  I received a speeding ticket in 1987, (that I did traffic school for), and a seatbelt ticket from 2004.( I paid the fine for on time). Otherwise I have no other previous convictions. I am NOT a criminal! I have always walked the straight and narrow, not even using marijuana until it was legal. I can’t believe I find myself in this predicament.
 
 
Judy Beres

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**Judy’s next court date is continued, please check our calendar for updates in the near future.

Judy Beres Court Dates:

8/23/11 http://the-human-solution.org/judy-beres-los-angeles-main-court
 

Kellee’s Story

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In her own words:

On August 22nd I went to Riverside court with my attorney, Letitia Pepper at my side. She had sent a letter to the DA stating I was a legal medical marijuana patient and that I was with in my legal limit when I was stopped by CHP who took the medicine I was transporting. The DA informed her they had been very busy and not had time to read her letter until then, but that they had no problem dismissing the charges. Letitia also requested that my medical cannabis be released, and the DA had no problem filling a motion for that as well.

The Judge came out and granted the motion and dismissed my case HOORAY! Leticia asked if she could pick up the medicine for me since I live far away and have a small child and the minute order would not be ready until the following day. The judge said no, and said he would give a copy of the order right then so I could go straight to Riverside CHP and pick up my cannabis.

The courtroom was filled with solidarity ribbon clad supporters who were joyous at the results. Court went great!

CHP, on the other hand, didn’t go as well. I went straight there and asked for Officer Perez, who I had spoken to the day after my arrest, to find out how to go about getting my meds back, and to let him know I would be coming back to get them.

He looked at my paperwork and first told me that he wouldn’t be able to release the cannabis with out a state ID card. I explained that was not true, that I had a valid doctor’s recommendation and I had just left the court. I had the Margolin Book of Marijuana Laws in front of me and showed him. He then said he would need an hour to go get it ready.

An hour later Officer Perez came out and said that he now couldn’t release the meds because the minute order said to release all “non contraband” evidence and not marijuana.

I called Leticia and she met me back at the CHP office at 1:30. Officer Perez told her the same thing, the cannabis is contraband and it says to release non-contraband evidence.

Well they only had one thing of mine in evidence first of all, second it is illegal to release contraband and when Leticia informed him of that, the officer replied “under federal law it is still illegal.” Leticia told him he is a state officer and therefore he needed to follow state law not federal. This went back and forth. He said the legal department was telling him not to release it, and then his supervisor came out and maintained that position.

We ended up leaving empty handed but finally got a contact for the legal department for CHP. We have been in contact with them and they are being helpful, so it doesn’t look like we have to sue the CHP.

On Friday Aug 26th , I went to the Riverside California Highway Patrol office and was handed back my medication. Letitia faxed the CHP legal department Tuesday afternoon and she got a call back on Wednesday.

The man that called her said he saw her letter in his stack of emails and knew it would be the most interesting call he would make all day. He also said he knew she was a “troublemaker” but in a good way. By Thursday afternoon Letitia called to let me know I could go get my medicine!

As much as it killed me to wait I waited until the next day after checking with Letitia. I got there a little before 2 and went in and asked for Officer Perez, the evidence officer. He saw me and said “Oh hi! Let me go grab that for you.”

About 5 minutes later I signed one piece of paper stating it was me picking up the medicine and I was on my was with my big plastic evidence bag filled with a green substance “believed to be marijuana,” as the slip said.

The “evidence” was well for and packaged in a vacuum-sealed bag.

So it all went well, thanks mostly to the help of Letitia Pepper, but I also with help from Officer Perez, Jonathan Rothman at CHP”s legal department, Deputy District Attorney Mariya Melkonyan and also Commissioner Stuart Glickman.

Letitia and I have asked if anyone has a chance to write a thank you note to anyone of these people please do so. They are making the laws work and maybe some thank you letters will show them how important what they are doing is.

Thank you for all your prayers and support!!!! I get to be home with my son because of the hard work all activists are out there are doing everyday.

P.S
No home visits as of yet from CPS but I have stayed in contact with the CPS worker that came out last time telling her what happened with this case. I am prepared for them if they do come. But no visit as of today! Skyler is learning to walk and things and he is healthy and happy!!