Study: Home marijuana gardens not a health risk for children

By Paul Armentano, NORML Deputy Director

California medical marijuana patient Daisy Brant has had her infant child literally torn from her breast twice to be handed over to Child Protective Services and been charged with child abuse because police found medical marijuana growing in her home. She won the first case, got her child back, was raided again and is now fighting the second case as a new published study shows how wrong and cruel the police have been in this and other cases in what amounts to little more than what Brant has called “government-sanctioned child-stealing.”

“The role of child protection in grow-operations,” a study in the March 2013 International Journal of Drug Policy, shows that children who live in homes where marijuana is being cultivated do not suffer from adverse health effects at any greater rate than do comparable children in cannabis-free environments.

A pair of investigators with the University of British Columbia, School of Social Work compared the household, family and individual characteristics of 181 children found living in homes with cannabis grow operations in two regions in British Columbia, Canada. Data collected on site included physical characteristics of the homes, health characteristics of the children living there, and the adolescents’ prescription drug history. They also compared the rates of the subjects’ prescription drug use with that of a group of children from the same geographic areas.

Researchers reported “no significant difference between the health of the children living in cannabis grow operations and the comparison group of children, based on their prescription history and their reported health at the time.” The study concluded, “The findings of this study challenge contemporary child welfare approaches and have implications for both child protection social workers and the policymakers who develop frameworks for practice. … Although there is little argument that the physical hazards found in cannabis grow-operations pose a risk to children and adults living in the homes, the associated health risks are not as clear. Policymakers involved in establishing frameworks and protocols for responding to these unique child welfare cases must consider the absence of clinical evidence to indicate these children are unwell and whether there are grounds for child welfare intervention.”

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