“Just Move To A State Where It’s Legal”: A Marijuana Mom Responds

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By Victoria LaChapelle

Diane Fornbacher, Publisher of Ladybud Magazine, recently posed a question online asking how people felt about the advice given to so many activist parents when it comes to having their family’s safety threatened by bad marijuana laws. Oftentimes, these mothers are told to just “move to a legal state.”

One detail that struck me during the open and balanced online discussion was a judgmental undertone that appeared to be aimed by dissenters towards the parents who agreed with the advice.

Respondents in favor of moving overwhelmingly cited their children and the effect legal consequences would have on them as their reason to move. Some responding have had personal, devastating interaction with Child Protective Services (CPS) already and are suffering the consequences. It is unclear if any of the parents responding in dissent have had CPS experiences.

Of the people that expressed disagreement with the advice, a few referenced having special needs children whose care and education would be disrupted by moving. A few expressed a desire to move but lacked the funds to do so. Most responding opined that they would not move cited an activist’s sense of duty to fight to change the laws of their home state. It is unclear if everyone responding had children or personal chronic health issues.

Admittedly,  I’m sensitive regarding my decision to move my four children and I to Colorado. Maybe part of me agrees with the sentiments expressed by those that disagree with the advice but I don’t agree with what some responders implied about my decision to move in order to preserve my family.

“What’s the point of being an activist if you have nothing to activate for?” was the response from one person.

To that I respond, “What’s the point of being a mother without anyone to mother?”

What made me, a mother of four, decide to move my children from the unfriendly (and getting unfriendlier by the minute) state of Wisconsin to the legalized marijuana state of Colorado?

The most important factor is the immediate safety, well-being and happiness of my family.

I have always said if you believe in something and choose to fight, you have to accept the consequences. I’d accept the consequences freely but I cannot accept what negative effects those consequences would have on my family. No matter how fearless I may feel, my children are afraid of losing their mother and for good reason as the threat of CPS action against families is very real.

There seems to be an epidemic of marijuana activists and patients being visited by CPS. It’s not only happening in prohibition states but in legal medicinal use states like Michigan and California. Children are being removed from family homes because a parent uses medical marijuana or has a supply on premises. Children are being kept and parents put on child abuse registries interminably even after charges are dropped and/or findings of abuse are unsubstantiated.

"Moving to another state in order to protect their interests while still fighting for my home state does not teach them to cut and run, as has been inferred. It teaches them to fight while keeping your family your #1 priority."

“What’s the point of being an activist if you have nothing to activate for?” was the response from one person. To that I respond, “What’s the point of being a mother without anyone to mother?”

There is also the knowledge of the very real effects a CPS investigation would have on my children. Several parents have reported long-lasting trauma after a CPS call. If I can prevent ever putting my children in that position, I feel it’s my duty to do so. I have chosen to move to Colorado instead of Oregon or California because, after the passage of Amendment 64, Colorado authorities assured the public that marijuana use or possession alone will not result in a CPS investigation. No other state has offered such reassurances.

At risk is also my ability to support my family. Parents are being put on the abuse registry without ever having lost custody of their children. As a nurse, those consequences would strip me of my ability to adequately provide for my family and I’d never be able to practice again. How would my family survive without my income? It would take years to recover from such a devastating blow.

If I lie about my medical use and “lay low” as some have suggested, I wouldn’t be fighting anything at all then, would I? My 15-year-old and 12-year-old are well aware of my marijuana activism and they know medicating with it is illegal in Wisconsin. While they are proud of my activism and want me to continue, the prohibition laws scare the hell out of them. Moving to another state in order to protect their interests while still fighting for my home state does not teach them to cut and run, as has been inferred. It teaches them to fight while keeping your family your #1 priority. I’d rather they learn that lesson than believe you have to stay and fight no matter the cost. Some costs, yes, are worth it. But nothing comes before my children, not ideology, not my rights and not even the rights of the people I fight for. Nothing. So while growing weed and being open in order to “stick it to the man” is a noble endeavor, it’s not more important than my children and my ability to mother them in their home rather than from a jail cell.

“Moving to another state in order to protect their interests while still fighting for my home state does not teach them to cut and run, as has been inferred. It teaches them to fight while keeping your family your #1 priority.”

Another contributing factor: I am not only a vocal marijuana advocate but I am also a medical marijuana patient. It took ten years of chronic pain and trial and error treatment with Big Pharma meds that resulted in disaster before I found the healing powers of cannabis. Ten years of my life were wasted and for ten years my children had to live without a functional mother.

I’m never going to give up cannabis treatment, never! My children would lose their mother again if I were ever forced off of cannabis. Sure I can continue to utilize the expensive, inconsistent and shady black market but why the hell should I have to when full access exists only a few hours away? I need access to safe and effective medicine in a way that does not jeopardize my freedom or my ability to provide for my children.

As others have suggested,  I could “wait it out” and hope my state will legalize medical use soon. Frankly, I don’t have that amount of time to wait and again, neither I nor my children should have to when peace and health is just a few states away.

I recently testified against Wisconsin SB150, which will increase penalties for marijuana possession in Wisconsin. It also strips district attorneys of prosecutorial discretion when it comes to charging marijuana crimes. Lawmakers disregarded the testimony of patients and activists, passing the bill through committee and on its way to a vote. Wisconsin, my home state, is moving backwards! With a Republican-controlled state government, forward momentum is far away. Unacceptably far.

Watch my testimony to the Wisconsin Legislature

I am not giving up on fighting for my home state. I am choosing to fight without the oppressive cloud of fear hanging over my head. Once I secure employment and a family home in Colorado, I will be forming a delegation comprised of medical refugees to return to testify and lobby in my state. I’m not moving in order to take the “easy way out”, as I’ve heard some activists state about decisions like mine. It is a realistic necessity. I’m a mom first and I have to be the best mom I can be and if that means being seen as taking the “easy way out,” then so be it. It’s worth it for my kids.

Whether or not to move to a legal state is an individual decision we are being forced to make. No decision is a blanket right or wrong. What is right for one may be wrong for another. I only ask for respect, not judgment, from the marijuana activism community when it comes to decisions of this magnitude. I ask that not only for parents that have chosen to move but for parents that choose to stay.

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