DCS Takes Children and Parents’ 1st Amendment Rights

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OPINION COLUMN BY ALLISON STEIN

Imagine sitting in a courtroom feeling as if the world is against you. In their eyes you are a junkie because you have a medical marijuana card. 

You couldn’t function and be a parent on pharmaceutical pills. You thought you were making the right choice for you and your family by getting your medical marijuana card. Now the state is using it against you, and your family is on the line. 

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Dependency Court is for parents with open DCS cases. Everyone has a lawyer; meaning the mother and father each have a separate representation. The children have a GAL (guardian ad litem), and even DCS has its own lawyer. You meet your attorney 15 mins before your first court hearing. They pull you into a little room and go over your case for 5 to 15 minutes. They think that’s an adequate amount of time, considering that your family’s fate rests in the Court’s hands. 

Your parental rights, your medical rights, and now your 1st Amendment rights can be stepped on by the feet of this “agency” and the court that goes with it.  Yes, your 1st Amendment, the right to free speech can be taken by a gag order. Gag Orders are supposed to protect the children in these cases, but really protect the courts and the lack of rights these parents actually have. A gag order is what it sounds like – it chokes you and cuts off your airway, at least your ability to tell your side of a story. 

Meaning, you cannot tell anyone about your case or even about your children in DCS care during the most traumatic time in any parents’ life, they cannot seek any support. They have to pretend as if nothing is wrong while jumping through hoop after hoop. If you do not obey, say, by posting things on social media or worse – going to the local news, you risk being thrown in jail. 

What chance do you have to keep your family together from there? After you lose your parental rights, you gain your freedom to at least talk about it, but by then, you’re one of those bad parents that lost their child. What’s even worse than that? A lot of “junkie parents” have their rights severed over their choice to use a safer medicine – cannabis.

One brave mother and medical marijuana patient reached out to ACN about her gag order in a current DCS case. This mother wanted her story heard but risks jail time for coming forward. Here is her silent battle against DCS for being a “medical marijuana junkie”. 

For Mati (not her real name), DCS involvement started with liver damage occurring due to her pregnancy with her first-born child. She suffers from chronic pain, along with over half of medical marijuana card holders. With her second child, while under the care and advice of a doctor, she used medical cannabis. Yet, DCS stepped in and issued a warrant to remove Mati ‘s two children. The reasons noted were postpartum depression and neglect due to “drug” use. 

Mati says that the DCS investigator, “knowingly and willingly withheld information” about her legal medical cannabis card from the judge in her case. When asked if DCS provided any resources for her and her family Mati replied, “Hahahaha, more like demanded random drug testing and counseling.” 

Mati also feels that her medical marijuana card is a target for DCS, stating, “We pay to be put on a list to be punished.” In fact, DCS has gas-lighted Mati so much that they have her questioning her own mental health with all the lies that courts have assumed are correct.  

That’s why Mati believes DCS gagged her 1st Amendment rights. “They don’t want everyone to know how corrupt they are. That they will remove kids based on lies or PPD or medical marijuana or from the victim of domestic abuse. That they do not have to follow ANY laws and have no consequences for their actions. The gag order came after my lawyer for some inexplicable reason told the judge we had a meeting with a reporter,” she states. 

Do you think DCS is protecting the system/themselves or your child by the gag order? 

Mati replied, “200 percent the system.” As a result of the gag order Mati says, “My trust in the government and DCS has completely and irrevocably been destroyed. It also makes me want to tell everyone what happened because, usually, when someone tells you not to tell anyone about something, it’s because they are doing something very, very wrong,”

If she hadn’t of been stripped of her freedom of speech, Mati believes things would have gone differently. “Our kids would be back already. I would hope the community would step up and say NO! This is not OK!” she said and stopped to cry.

To further the overwhelming frustration, Mati ‘s state-provided lawyer knew nothing about the Arizona Medical Marijuana Act (AMMA). To dig even deeper, Mati claims that it’s doubtful any attorney in the courtroom had any knowledge on the AMMA, including the judge. According to her, her lawyer advised her she didn’t have any rights, either as a medical patient or as a parent. 

Mati and her struggles are sadly common for many parents. She’s had enough at the hands of this corrupt system. The lack of support and rights parents face against DCS feels so much like them against the world, especially adding to that stripping your right to free speech. This issue is not getting any better, it only getting worse. This is not just an injustice to medical cannabis patients; it’s an injustice to all parents, all children and all families.

Allison Stein is a staff writer for AZ Cannabis News

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