Despite the legalization of cannabis in New York, child welfare agencies continue to cite use of the substance in family courts, with parents sometimes being separated from their children because of marijuana consumption.
It is reported that these parents are often minorities, who were disproportionately adversely affected during the War on Drugs.
When marijuana was legalized earlier this year in New York State, many lawmakers argued that racial equity was one of the main potential benefits behind this decision. But available data doesn’t seem to support the view.
Gothamist interviewed parents who had been affected by these decisions and had a look at court documents showing that despite cannabis being legal, the drug continues to play a factor in family separations.
“Half of those interviewed at length were parents who said it has felt impossible to extricate themselves from deeply rooted biases in the child welfare system surrounding marijuana use, specifically toward people of colour,” the website reported. “Those interviews, along with records from family court cases, suggest marijuana continues to be used both to help separate children from their parents and keep families apart in long-running family court cases,” it added.
New York’s Administration for Children’s Services (ACS) notes that cannabis is never the sole reason why a child is separated from his or her parents. According to the agency, drug and alcohol claims are often lumped together, thereby making the influence of each issue difficult to determine.
An agency spokesperson reportedly said the purpose of their investigations is to “assess the impact any misuse has on child safety.” This data is then reviewed by a family judge, who may, if necessary, decide to put the child in foster care.
Many lawyers and family members who were interviewed via Gothamist claimed the ACS’s attitude regarding marijuana hasn’t changed in years, even when talking about medical marijuana, which was approved in New York in 2014.
They further argue there appears to be an assumption by the agency that using cannabis of any sort is linked with mental instability.
When talking about racial equity, a topic that’s been cited as a priority in New York, it’s pivotal for the government to do its part to fulfill its promises.