CLEVELAND, Ohio — After Ohio voters rejected the legalizing of marijuana Tuesday night, one mother who had tea infused with the drug is fighting to win back custody of her newborn.
She isn’t interested in debating the politics of it all; she and her husband just want their daughter back.
A judge ordered the child be removed after her mother allegedly drank the marijuana-infused tea as an alternative medicine to treat an extreme illness.
“The case worker came in and told us, ‘You guys can leave but you can not take your daughter,'” said Daniel Sanford, the father.
Daniel Sanford and his wife Hollie are fighting for custody of their newborn baby girl Nova, who arrived healthy and alert Sept. 26.
“They’re making this a physical abuse case,” Hollie said.
The issues in this case began when Hollie was pregnant with Nova, with the mother calling both the pregnancy and delivery difficult. Hollie claimed she was very sick during the pregnancy, unable to eat along with persistent sciatic nerve pain.
“(The pain) would stop me from walking sometimes,” Hollie said.
Doctors recommended traditional medicines like opiates, which Hollie refused, choosing instead medicinal marijuana tea when the pain was too much.
“We did the research and THC psychoactive doesn’t reach the baby after it’s already been metabolized through my body,” said Hollie. “So it’s not like baby is stoned in utero as people might think.”
While that may be, Hollie violated the law when she possessed and ingested the drug, as marijuana — medicinal or otherwise — is not legal in Ohio.
Unbeknownst to couple, attorney Joseph Jacobs, who is representing the Sanfords, said a drug test was wrongfully performed on their child at Fairview Hospital.
He said the screenings are run when public assistance or Medicaid is paying for the hospital services, but the Sanfords are not on public assistance and have private insurance.
“They never even asked us,” Hollie said. “They tested my baby’s diaper with the meconium stool.”
A urine sample from that diaper was negative, but the meconium stool, which is composed of materials from inside the womb, tested positive for a bi-product of marijuana.
And when traces of a bi-product of marijuana showed up in the meconium stool, which is what babies ingest while inside the womb, Cuyahoga County Division of Children and Family Services got involved.
Court records show that despite “a lack of evidence the child was exposed to THC or suffered from withdrawal,” the magistrate determined “removal was necessary,” citing “immediate or threatened physical or emotional harm.” The infant has since been placed with a family member.
“I do not have a dependency issue, I am not addicted to marijuana and I’ve clearly shown that with clean drug tests,” Hollie said.
Fox 8 reached out to the juvenile courts but did not receive a comment on the case.
The family has filed an appeal asking for an immediate hearing, which isn’t scheduled until December. In the meantime, they said they are visiting and bonding with baby Nova as often as they can.
“It’s very hard,” Hollie said. “We’re just trying to be optimistic and count our blessings. That’s what keeps us going.”