Kansas Mom Faces 30-Year Prison Sentence for Using Medical Marijuana

By McCarton Ackerman 06/10/15

Shona Banda could spend a long time in prison for trying to treat her debilitating Crohn's disease.

Marijuana Plant Leaves

A Kansas mom who uses medical marijuana to control her debilitating Crohn's disease has not only lost custody of her son, but could spend the next 30 years in prison on an assortment of drug-related and child endangerment charges.

The state of Kansas charged Shona Banda with five felony counts of possession of marijuana with the intent to distribute, manufacturing THC, two counts of possession of drug paraphernalia, and one count of child endangerment. She is expected to turn herself into authorities on June 15. Her 11-year-old son has been removed from her home and is now in the custody of her ex-husband.

Before using medical marijuana, Banda underwent 17 surgeries and tried a number of medications, but her condition worsened to the point that doctors expected her to die. After beginning to heal when she used medical marijuana, she tried to move to Colorado on two separate occasions, but was forced to move back home for financial reasons.

“I spent years raising my children from a couch, not being able to move much. I wasn’t able to be a proper mother when I was sick and now I’m a fantastic mother,” said Banda, who chronicled her journey to medical marijuana in her book, Live Free or Die. “I’m very afraid. I cannot believe that I could be facing 30 years in prison for trying to save my life.”

Banda has only seen her son once since Child Protective Services came to her home on March 24. She has also stopped using medical marijuana, leading to extreme weight loss and an infection that rotted the roof of her mouth.

But while her story is tragic, it’s not uncommon. Amber Thurmond moved from Kansas to Arizona, where medical marijuana is legal, but is facing charges in Kansas of physical, emotional, and mental neglect after leaving her nine-year-old daughter with her brother for a semester. She needed medical marijuana in order to control frequent seizures.

The daughter has since been put in the state foster care system. A family court judge in the town of Hays told Thurmond she will only regain custody by relocating to Kansas, but faces possible jail time if she does.

“I want to tell everyone I see, ‘you have children? Well, you better reconsider your usage,’” said Thurmond, who was also featured in the National Geographic TV series, American Weed. “And yet, we can go home and drink ourselves to death and never have children removed from our homes.”

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McCarton Ackerman is a freelance writer and editor living in Portland, Oregon. He has been a contributor for The Fix since October 2011, writing on a wide range of topics ranging from medical marijuana in Colorado to the world's sexiest drug smugglers. Follow him on Linkedin and Twitter.