At the request of the defense attorney for Shona Banda, a local medicinal marijuana advocate facing drug and child endangerment charges, a judge on Monday agreed to postpone her arraignment so her defense team can have more time to prepare.
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.
At Monday’s scheduled arraignment in Finney County District Court, Banda’s attorney, Sarah Swain, told Chief District Court Judge Wendel Wurst that she was not prepared to move forward with the arraignment and needed more time to collect evidence and contact witnesses.
Wurst agreed to push the arraignment back to 1 p.m. July 29, but not before asking Banda if she was OK with the delay.
“My life is on the line, and I would like (the postponement),” Banda said.
Wurst also scheduled a pre-trial hearing in the case for July 27 through 29.
The charges against Banda 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 were contacted and intervened after Banda’s 11-year-old son made comments during a drug education program at his school, Bernadine Sitts Intermediate Center.
According to police, the boy said his mother and other adults were avid drug users and that there was a lot of drug use occurring in his home.
After Banda ‘s arrest, her son initially was placed in his father’s custody. The DCF then placed the boy in protective custody. He is now back in the custody of his father.
Swain said in court Monday that she intends to file a motion claiming that the state violated Banda’s Fourth Amendment rights when it obtained a warrant to search her home at 907 Conkling St.
Swain also said she plans to file a motion against the state claiming authorities spoke with Banda’s son without his parents’ consent or knowledge of the interview, and for obtaining a search warrant based on information the boy shared.
Under questioning by Swain at Banda’s Nov. 16, 2015, preliminary hearing, Garden City police Detective Clint Brock testified he did not contact the boy’s parents to inform them he was questioning their son. He said he interviewed the boy for 48 minutes, then interviewed Banda.
Swain said filing these motions will take time.
“It will take several month to get all of that done,” Swain said.
Banda, 38, after being informed her youngest son was going to be called to testify by the prosecution at the November preliminary hearing, waived the remainder of it so he would not need to testify.
The distribution charge against Banda was amended Nov. 16. Previously, she was charged with distributing at least 450 grams of marijuana in a school zone. The amended charge changes that to 25 to 450 grams.
If convicted of distributing 25 to 450 grams of marijuana in a school zone, Banda faces a sentence of 92 months to 144 months in prison, another 92 to 144 months in prison for manufacture of a controlled substance and 10 to 42 months for possession of drug paraphernalia.
Banda became 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 has also appeared in YouTube videos and in online articles, sharing her knowledge of and belief in the medicinal benefits of cannabis oil.
Attorneys for Banda have threatened to file a lawsuit that would name the Garden City Police Department, Garden City USD 457, the State of Kansas, the governor and the Kansas Department of Children and Families along with others, and alleges that Banda’s rights to use cannabis for medicinal purposes and maintain custody of her son have been violated.
The lawsuit has yet to be filed.