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After Losing Custody Of Her Son, Medical Marijuana Advocate Could Lose Her Freedom

Jacob Sullum
Thursday, June 18, 2015

"Shona Banda, a 38-year-old massage therapist who appeared in criminal court for the first time on Tuesday, is free on a $50,000 bond while her case is pending.


During a “drug education” program at his school in Garden City, Kansas, on March 24, Banda’s son heard some things about marijuana that did not jibe with what he had learned about the plant from his mother. So he spoke up, suggesting that cannabis was less dangerous and more beneficial than the counselors running the program were claiming. That outburst of skepticism precipitated a visit to the principal’s office, where the fifth-grader was interrogated about his mother’s cannabis consumption. School officials called Child Protective Services (CPS), which contacted police, who obtained a warrant to search Banda’s house based on what her son had said.  


One way to keep Banda out of prison may be to challenge the actions that police took before obtaining a warrant to search her house. Banda initially turned away the officers and CPS employees who came to her house, ostensibly to 'investigate the safety of the residence for the child.' Capt. Ralston describes what happened next:

'The residence was secured pending investigation and application [for] a search warrant. Officers remained on scene until the search warrant was granted to prevent the destruction of evidence while the application for search warrant was proceeding.'

That 'securing' of the residence, University of Kansas law professor Richard Levy told The Wichita Eagle, may have amounted to an unconstitutional seizure, which casts doubt on the validity of the subsequent search. And without the evidence obtained in the search, the case against Banda crumbles."