Why is Pot “Child Endangerment” But a Loaded Gun is Not?


11-year-old Benjamin Tiller will spend the rest of his childhood, until age 19, in the custody of the state of Tennessee. Benjamin was just convicted of the cold-blooded murder of 8-year-old McKayla Dyer. Benjamin had gone hunting often with his father and grandfather and had been trained in firearm safety. Benjamin got angry at McKayla in a spat over some puppies, so Benjamin retrieved his father’s shotgun in their mobile home, made sure it was loaded, aimed it out the window and fired a blast to McKayla’s chest.

Meanwhile, the 11-year-old son of Shona Banda is spending his childhood without his mother in Kansas. He had the audacity to tell school officials in his drug education class that their sinister claims about marijuana were unfounded. His mother uses cannabis to treat her Crohn’s disease and he’s well-educated on the subject. That led to calls to child protective services, who called police, who called a judge to get a warrant. They took Shona’s son away and arrested Shona when they found her cannabis medicine in their home.

Now guess which parent – Benjamin’s father or Shona – is facing child endangerment charges?

Just so we’re clear: the father in the first story taught his kid how to fire a shotgun, took him out to kill animals with a shotgun, and left a shotgun and ammo available to his unsupervised kid, who then straight-up murders a little girl.

The mother in the second story uses cannabis as medicine, taught her kid cannabis was a non-toxic medicine that saves her life, and the kid is not found to have ever ingested cannabis, who then tells the truth about cannabis in a drug education class in school.

OK, which one is facing the child endangerment charge – the father or the mother?

If you guessed the parent whose kid had access to accurate education about cannabis, you are correct.

If you guessed the parent whose kid had access to a shotgun and used it to murder, you are sane, but, unfortunately, also incorrect.

There are so many stories of marijuana consuming-parents (medical or otherwise) whose kids don’t smoke pot who then lose their children and face charges of child endangerment.

There are so many stories of gun enthusiast-parents (hunters or otherwise) whose children shoot and kill people who then keep their children and don’t face charges of child endangerment.

I’ve been thinking about this since back in late April 2013. Lindsay Reinhart was the chief petitioner for an initiative to legalize medical marijuana in Idaho. Lindsay suffers from multiple sclerosis and uses cannabis medically herself. She went out of town to the remote mountains and left her kids at home with an adult babysitter. Through a series of events police end up at her home, intimidate their way past the babysitter, find her medicine, and her kids are promptly taken by child protective services.

That very same week, a mother just a county away had left her three-year-old and her 10-month-old in her car while she ran back into the house. The three-year-old found the loaded handgun the mother had stored in the car and fired it, hitting the 10-month-old in the cheek. The mother hears the shot and dials 911. Later that night, she’s got her infant back from the hospital, her three-year-old was never taken, and county prosecutors filed no charges.

Maybe I don’t understand the concept of “endangerment”. It means to put something or someone into potential danger, doesn’t it? How could anybody possibly imagine that a child is in more danger from parents that use cannabis than parents that leave loaded guns lying around?

Russ Belville

"Radical" Russ Belville is a blogger, podcaster, and host of The Russ Belville Show, a daily two-hour talk radio show fo

OMBC Ashland Oregon with Del and Tommy Chong 10-19-2016