In the recent 2012 elections, voters in Washington State and Colorado legalized marijuana at the ballot box. However, state law does not supercede federal law, and these states are currently seeking guidance from the federal government on how to implement the new laws. According to the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA), the production, sale, and usage of marijuana is still illegal, and the Justice Department has taken the stance of no comment until the new laws undergo review.
As a Child Protective Services Investigator, it was a common experience to witness marijuana laws being used disproportionately against minority and low-income families. Women who give birth with Medicaid as their health insurance are often given medically unnecessary drug test on the mother, child, and meconium testing especially when there is no evidence of a drug induce medical issue.
Positive drug test trigger a mandatory child protective services report despite the absence of any medical concern for the baby and lack of any knowledge of neglect/abuse. Often times, children are held in the hospital until a full safety assessment of the home, interview of all household members, and all children of both parents which could live in different households are completed.
This is an area Medicaid should be looking at to reduce unnecessary costs by providers. A PPO or HMO are not going to pay for medically unnecessary drug testing, sending of the meconium for additional testing, and this extra time while Social Services conducts a safety assessment. I digressed, and I will save this for another time when I am on my soapbox about healthcare and Medicaid.
Social Services Agencies are not accredited like hospitals, schools, and law enforcement agency despite having statutory authority to change a child’s life for the rest of their life. Every Agency is entrusted to administer policies in the way the director sees fit. I have worked at one county agency were its policy, on positive tox marijuana babies, was to require the mother to find someone who could agree to 24 hour supervision of the mother and child for 30 to 45 day assessment period or until a case decision is made.
If the mother could not or did not have the support system to meet the demands of the safety plan, it was grounds to bring the child into custody. At another agency, their policy was to put in a safety plan were the parent agrees to have another adult supervise the baby if they plan to continue with their marijuana usage. This should not be a policy that is made from county to county or state to state. At least with law enforcement, citizens know what the rules are because they are written down somewhere. With Social Services Agencies, parents may not be aware or understand the agency’s policy on marijuana usage until their child is being removed.
I’ve had so many positive tox marijuana cases on my caseload that I could look at the mother’s medical records and determine whether their doctor instructed her to use marijuana which is often reported by the mother. Especially in cases with detached placenta, doctors often urge mothers to use marijuana because it helps to alleviate weight loss and nausea, and it is safer than the prescription drugs they could prescribe.
Whether you agree or disagree with marijuana, the decision to legalize needs to be explored using a holistic approach that includes professionals at all levels who deal with the populations that are overwhelmingly being affected by these policies. Clinical Social Workers provide 60 percent of the mental health services provided in the US. It is my hope that thought and policy leaders will begin including social workers in these important discussions.
Join Senator Liz Krueger and the panel she has convened to discuss this important issue in a community forum:
Marijuana Policy Today: Where Do We Go From Here?
Ethan Nadelmann, Executive Director, Drug Policy Alliance NY
Julie Holland, M.D., Psychiatrist and Editor of The Pot Book: A Complete Guide to Cannabis
Joanne Naughton, Retired Police Lieutenant, NYC, LEAP (Law Enforcement Against Prohibition
with Personal Testimony by
Alfred Carrasquillo, Community Organizer, VOCAL NY
Wednesday, May 15th
6:30 – 8:30 p.m.
Baruch Performing Arts Center
The Engelman Recital Hall
55 Lexington Avenue, NYC
(enter on East 25th Street between 3rd & Lex)
FREE & OPEN TO THE PUBLIC