Class War: Why Poor Parents Are More Likely to Get Busted for Pot

Recently, the New York Times published an op-ed by an art dealer and father from San Francisco titled “Pot for Parents.” It was just the latest of a growing number of pieces (, NY Post , and published recently espousing the benefits of marijuana use for parents. These pro-pot missives share a carefree and cavalier tone, portraying marijuana use as an upscale diversion that ameliorates stress and leads to more patient and creative parenting. The “best part” of marijuana use, the “Pot for Parents” author writes, “is an amazing off-label benefit I call Parental Attention Surplus Syndrome” — the ability to perform obligatory parental duties with genuine enthusiasm after using marijuana.

Whatever benefits marijuana use may or may not have for parenting, to those of us who represent parents in New York City’s Family Courts, these articles only highlight a daily reality: that when it comes to drug use, there are very different rules for poor parents, and particularly poor parents of color. The disproportionate and devastating impact of the drug war on poor communities of color, in terms of criminal arrests and prosecutions, has been well documented. What has largely gone unreported is the extent to which countless low-income parents in New York City and across the country live with the fear – a fear clearly not shared by the well-heeled author of “Pot for Parents” – that they could lose their children to the foster care system if they were as brazen about their own pot smoking.

These fears are well founded. For poor parents in New York, suspicion of marijuana use will often trigger a visit from the Administration for Children’s Services (ACS), and an intrusive inspection of their homes, bedrooms and cupboards. The municipal caseworker, untrained in social work or child psychology, will interrogate their children, asking questions about the intimate minutiae of all aspects of family life without background or context, and require a drug test. If the parent refuses a drug test or tests positive for marijuana, she will be asked to attend intensive drug treatment lasting up to 18 months, usually at taxpayers’ expense, even for casual or infrequent marijuana use. If the parent refuses to attend treatment, ACS will file a petition charging the parent with child neglect, regardless of whether there is any evidence that the marijuana use has had a negative effect on parenting.

– Read the rest of the article at Alternet.