Attorneys for Shona Banda, the Garden City woman who made national news after her arrest on drug allegations, plan to file a lawsuit against the state of Kansas in U.S. District Court for the District of Kansas alleging Banda’s civil rights were violated.
Banda’s attorney, Sarah Swain, and another attorney, Matthew Pappas, announced plans to file the suit at a July 3 press conference in Los Angeles.
When contacted Friday, Banda declined to comment about filing the lawsuit.
Banda is charged with endangering a child, unlawful manufacturing of a controlled substance, possession of marijuana with intent to distribute within 1,000 feet of a school, possession of paraphernalia to use controlled substances and possession of paraphernalia with intent to manufacture, plant or cultivate a controlled substance.
Banda’s next court appearance is scheduled for 9 a.m. Aug. 24, before District Court Chief Judge Wendel Wurst. She could face up to 30 years in prison if convicted.
In a Friday interview, Pappas said the case hinges on whether the state of Kansas and the Department for Children and Families violated Banda’s right to have custody of her son when they took him into custody on April 16.
“There’s a fundamental right in our country that if you’re doing something that is to help a condition you suffer from, and that’s the purpose of what you’re doing, then it would be inappropriate, unless there is an extremely important interest and a narrowly-tailored law,” Pappas said. “It would be necessary to have that situation before you would ever take a child out of somebody’s custody.”
The right of a parent to have custody of their child has been upheld as fundamental in prior case law, Pappas said, at various times since the Civil Rights Act of 1871.
Pappas will argue that Banda’s case must balance in favor of her right to have custody of her son rather than the state’s interest in protecting a child endangered by their parent because she is treating her Crohn’s disease with a drug that is not as dangerous as methamphetamine, cocaine or cigarettes.
“In Kansas the issue comes down to whether or not there is a justification that the law prohibiting marijuana is narrowly tailored given the fact that she’s using it to alleviate serious pain and symptoms related to Crohn’s disease and not to get high,” Pappas said.
Banda, a medicinal marijuana advocate, became a well-known local figure for her use of cannabis oil in treating Crohn’s disease and authored a book on the subject titled, ‘Live Free or Die.’ She has also appeared in YouTube videos and in online articles on www.naturalnews.com, sharing her knowledge of and belief in the medicinal benefits of cannabis oil.
Last week, a criminal arrest affidavit against Banda was released to The Telegram that details what her 11-year-old son told investigators about drug use in their home.
According to authorities, the drug investigation and child-in-need-of-care case came about as a result of comments Banda’s son made during a drug education program March 24 at his school, Bernadine Sitts Intermediate Center, that resulted in the Department of Children and Families and Garden City Police Department being contacted.
According to police, the boy said his mother and other adults in his residence were avid drug users and there was a lot of drug use occurring in his residence, which led police to suspect drugs were present in the home.
Officers and DCF officials went to Banda’s home, 901 Conkling St., on March 24 after police say her son told his classmates, while learning about marijuana at school, that his mom smokes a lot of it.
Police say that since all of the items were within reach of the child, law enforcement and DCF officials decided the boy should be removed from the home.
The boy initially was placed in the custody of his father, who is separated from Banda, and then put into protective custody on April 16.
It is unknown at this time whether the boy remains in protective custody, due to District Magistrate Judge Richard Hodson placing a gag order on any and all proceedings in the child-in-need-of-care (CINC) case.
According to the affidavit, school officials became concerned that Banda’s son knew too much information about marijuana for his age. Police interviewed the boy on March 24 about drug use in the home. Based on the interview, a search warrant was secured for Banda’s home where marijuana and drug paraphernalia was located. Police met with the boy again on April 27 and according to the affidavit the boy additional details about drug use in the home.
On June 2, the Kansas Bureau of Investigations tested items obtained in the search of Banda’s home, and they showed a presence of THC that resulted in her being arrested.
CORRECTION: A previous version of this story incorrectly reported the status of the civil case being prepared on behalf of Shona Banda against the state of Kansas and the Kansas Department for Children and Families. As of June 17, Banda's attorneys, Sarah Swain and Matthew Pappas, had prepared a petition they intend to file in the U.S. District Court for the District of Kansas. The petition had not yet been filed.