A local advocate of the healing powers of medicinal marijuana will learn Monday whether she will retain custody of her son, after police seized marijuana and drug paraphernalia from her home in March and placed her child in protective custody.
A child in need of care proceeding is scheduled for Monday in Finney County District Court, with District Magistrate Judge Richard Hodson presiding, involving an 11-year-old boy taken into protective custody on March 24 by the Department of Children and Families and Garden City Police Department.
Garden City police Capt. Randy Ralston said police responded to a call from the DCF, which was contacted by Bernadine Sitts Intermediate Center on March 24 concerning the welfare of the boy, the son of Shona Banda, 37, 901 Conkling Ave.
According to her Linked in account, Banda is a motivational speaker and cannabis consultant, who authored a book about the healing benefits that she experienced when using cannabis oil to treat her Crohn’s disease.
Ralston said the boy said some things during a drug education program conducted by the school that concerned some of the teachers and counselors.
Under Kansas’ mandatory reporting statute, all public schools are required to report to DCF or law enforcement when it is believed a child might be in danger.
“The school officials called DCF, DCF did their investigation, and then we were called,” Ralston said.
Officers then went to Banda’s home, where according to Ralston, she denied them consent to search the residence.
Based on what the child had said during the drug education program and interviews with others, Ralston said, police later applied for and received a search warrant. According to the search warrant, the search was conducted based on probable cause that the following crimes were being or had been committed: possession of marijuana and endangerment of a child.
During the search, marijuana in plant, oil, joint, gel and capsule form and drug paraphernalia were found, according to the warrant.
“We took the boy into protective custody after they found what they found at the house,” Ralston said.
Finney County Attorney Susan Richmeier said the state is required under the law to hold a hearing within 72 hours of a child being taken into police custody.
“The court has to determine whether or not an emergency exists that warrants the removal of the child from the home, and then he gets placed accordingly based on whatever his determination is,” Richmeier said.
On March 27, after an emergency custody hearing, the boy was placed into the custody of his father, who is separated from Banda.
On Thursday, the boy was taken back into police protective custody until Monday’s hearing, when the judge will determine whether he will be placed in the custody of one of his parents, a relative or the state.
Richmeier said in Finney County, St. Francis Community Services provides services to children and families in these cases, so if the judge rules the boy be placed in the custody of DCF, St. Francis will place him accordingly.
Richmeier said the case is still being investigated by the GCPD and that it is possible that criminal charges could be filed, but that the child in need of care case is a separate matter.
“A child in need of care case and a criminal case don’t go hand in hand. They’re two completely different sets of circumstances and two completely different standards of proof,” Richmeier said.
Banda declined to comment for this story. Her attorney, Linda Lobmeyer, did not return calls seeking comment.
Banda is not without her supporters. David Cauble, of Paradise, said he set up a Facebook page called Rally to support Shona Banda and her child because he believes both of their rights have been violated. As of press time, according to the Facebook page, 174 people say they are going to the rally.
The rally is taking place at the Finney County Courthouse during the custody hearing. A gofundme account, a fundraising website, has also been established on behalf of Banda for potential legal fees, should criminal charges be filed against her.
A video that appears to have been taken by Shona Banda showing Garden City police officers and agents of the Department of Children and Families refusing to allow Banda into her home on March 24, prior to authorities obtaining a search warrant for her home, was posted on YouTube Friday.
Here's a link to that video: