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Kids of MMJ Users Taken by Government

In another case of official abuse sparked by marijuana use, a California man is suing local officials who took his children for a year solely because he uses legal medical pot.

Michael Lewis and his wife, Lauren Taylor, are suing San Diego County, the City of Coronado, and nine cops for seizing his two children, then ages two and four, during a routine visit to his home two years ago.

Lewis suffers from Gulf War syndrome, and he obtained a medical marijuana prescription from a physician. He uses it to treat his pain, and he always keeps it away from his children, he says.

In August 2011, a caller told the police Lewis and his wife were running an illegal day care center in their home and using pot around the children. Police visited the home and found weed, but sad-boyno day care facility – and no indication the children were being abused or neglected. Lewis’ lawyers insist police also found no evidence the cannabis was ever left where children could access it.

Yet three days later, agents of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services swept in and seized the children. They were dropped off at a San Diego County emergency shelter for abused children.

According to the legal complaint filed by Lewis’ attorneys,

“(the) children were there for approximately two weeks without their parents and were no doubt terrified. . . . The only allegations against Lewis and Taylor were, essentially, that Lewis legally used marijuana, and police found marijuana in the home.”

The agents took the children on grounds of “general negligence,” according to the lawyers, but they never had evidence to back that up. The Department of Health and Human Services failed to conduct any independent investigation before deciding to take the kids.

As if having their children taken by strangers wasn’t enough, the worst was yet to come. Lewis and Taylor tried everything the could to get their kids back, but nothing worked. In the end, it took exactly 364 days before the kids were returned.

The family is now suing for child abduction, invasion of privacy, intentional infliction of emotional distress, negligent infliction of emotional distress, and false imprisonment.

Medical marijuanaAs part of their suit, Lewis and Taylor allege prosecutors lied about the children’s access to pot. One defendant, Ian Baxter of Health and Human Services, “misled the court by stating that he did not need to conduct any pre-placement preventive services because of the ‘emergent nature’ of the situation and asserted that Michael and Lauren left their children ‘inadequately attended and inadequately supervised’ around the marijuana. This statement was totally false, and Baxter knew it, or – even worse – simply didn’t care.”

The lawsuit goes on to charge other HHS agents and local cops with making false statements that kept the two children away from their parents.

The order that returned the children was signed a year ago by the Fourth District Court of Appeal and overturned a lower court’s ruling. The order said “the record does not support a finding that Lewis’ marijuana use or alleged mental illness had any negative impact on the children.”

About Matt Brooks

Based in San Francisco, Matt is a journalist who has specialized in marijuana policy for more than five years. He provides regular news coverage on marijuanaandthelaw.com and californiamarijuanamarket.com.

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