A southwest Kansas single mother who lost custody of her son for using medical marijuana to ease her Crohn’s disease has gone from being a massage therapist eking out a living in the back of a health food store to a national figure at the center of the pot debate.
Shonda Banda, 37, of Garden City, has not been charged since police officers searched her home and found marijuana and cannabis oil last month. But authorities took her 11-year-old son away, put him into protective state custody and referred the case to the Finney County prosecutor for possible drug and child endangerment charges, The Kansas City Star reported.
Banda’s story soon went global, and supporters have contributed nearly $40,000 in a GoFundMe account for her possible legal fight, should prosecutors decide to file criminal charges.
Part of the outrage is that if she lived an hour to the west, in Colorado, she would have been perfectly fine having marijuana in the house.
“Them taking her son made Shona the perfect storm,” said Sarah Swain, Banda’s attorney.
Swain, whose law office is in Lawrence, was in Kansas City, Missouri, on Saturday to attend the Global Marijuana March near Country Club Plaza.
Banda said she started using medical marijuana about five years ago for Crohn’s disease, an inflammatory bowel disease that causes abdominal pain, severe diarrhea, fatigue, weight loss and malnutrition. Before starting with the marijuana, she walked with a can and often couldn’t get off the couch, she said.
Eventually she was able to return to work and ride bikes with her son.
A motivational speaker, Banda is the author of a book “Live Free or Die: Reclaim your Life . . . Reclaim your Country!” that recounts her use of a concentrated cannabis oil to treat her disease.
Her legal troubles began March 24 when police were called to her son’s school for a child welfare check following a drug and alcohol presentation. Investigators allege the fifth-grader told school officials his mother and other adults in his home were avid drug users and that there was a lot of drug use occurring at the home.
Officers got a search warrant for her home and found about 1 1/4 pounds of marijuana and a lab for manufacturing cannabis oil on the kitchen table and counters, drug paraphernalia and other related items, police said.
Lisa Sublett, who heads the patient advocacy group Bleeding Kansas, thinks charges against Banda could lead to a case that changes Kansas law, perhaps even going to the U.S. Supreme Court.
Finney County Attorney Susan H. Richmeier did not return a call seeking comment.