Chief District Judge Wendel Wurst granted a defense motion Tuesday morning requesting that a mental competency evaluation be performed on Shona Banda, a Garden City medicinal marijuana advocate who is facing drug charges, to determine if she is competent to stand trial.
Banda appeared in Finney County District Court with her attorney, Ron Evans, who filed the motion for a competency evaluation.
Prior to granting the motion, Judge Wurst asked Banda whether she was agreeable to the evaluation, and she said she was.
Banda is tentatively scheduled to be evaluated on Jan. 5 at Compass Behavioral Health. Wurst scheduled a hearing for 11 a.m. Jan. 17 to review the findings of the evaluation.
Banda is charged with endangering a child, distribution or possession with intent to distribute a controlled substance within 1,000 feet of school property, unlawful manufacture of a controlled substance and possession of drug paraphernalia.
The charges stem from an investigation by the Department of Children and Families and Garden City police in which authorities searched Banda’s home in March 2015 and seized suspected marijuana and drug paraphernalia.
The DCF and police intervened after Banda’s then 11-year-old son made comments during a drug education program at his school.
According to police, the boy said his mother and other adults in the home were avid drug users and that there was a lot of drug use in his home. After the investigation, the state removed Banda’s son from her custody.
A pretrial conference had been scheduled for Tuesday, but Wurst suspended all proceedings in the case until a ruling is made on the competency issue.
Banda has become well known for her use of cannabis oil in treating her Crohn’s disease and authored a book on the subject titled, “Live Free or Die.” She also has appeared in YouTube videos and in online articles, touting her belief in the medicinal benefits of cannabis oil.
Banda waived her preliminary hearing in November 2015.
In July, the Finney County Attorney’s Office filed a motion asking Wurst to rule whether Banda should be allowed to tout the benefits of medicinal marijuana use as part of her defense. Wurst has yet to make a ruling on the motion.
Banda filed a lawsuit in March in federal court in Wichita that named the Garden City Police Department, Garden City USD 457, the State of Kansas, the governor and the DCF, among others, alleging that her rights to use cannabis for medicinal purposes and to maintain custody of her son had been violated.