Garden City, KS – When Shona Banda published her 2010 book, Live Free or Die, she became recognized as a leader in the fight for the people’s right to use cannabis medicinally. Its history is undeniable, and the science is unequivocal.
However, political boundaries can profoundly affect those who use this miraculous plant. If you live in Kansas, where the dark days of prohibition still reign, a peaceful and loving mother can have her life turned upside-down.
It started in March 2015 when Shona’s 11-year-old son was attending a “drug education program” at the Bernadine Sitts Intermediate Center. After making a comment relating to Shona’s medical cannabis use for Crohn’s disease, school officials called The Department of Children and Families and the Garden City police.
Authorities proceeded to interview Shona’s son without her permission. Using this information, which was possibly gained illegally, they raided Shona’s home while she was not there and found cannabis. In June, Shona was charged with various drug and child endangerment crimes, whereupon she turned herself in to authorities.
Even more devastatingly, Shona’s son was taken away by the state when they opened a Child in Need of Care (CINC) case.
The state does not like the fact that Shona treats her debilitating disease successfully with an ancient medicinal plant, instead of using pharmaceutical drugs. She has developed her own cannabis oil extraction method, which turns the benefits into a digestible form.
The Free Thought Project interviewed Shona Banda, who will face the Kansas court system on July 27. Shona described the terrible process of being made into a criminal by the State, and the trauma it is inflicting on her 11-year-old son. Her story is a prime example of how government victimizes non-violent citizens in a senseless War on Drugs.
If the State itself were not enough of a threat to liberty and the pursuit of happiness, Shona’s first attorney seemed incapable of mounting an effective defense. We also interviewed Jennifer Ani, the California attorney who took over the CINC case after the first attorney was asked to withdraw.
Ani describes how that attorney failed to produce crucial evidence until the day of trial or just before. This was no minor piece of evidence. It was a video recording of Finney County detective Clint Brock interviewing Shona’s son, done without her knowledge months after taking him away.
When Shona finally saw the video of this interview, she felt like it was “a perverted man trying to coax my child to a van.” He got a pat on the back every time he said something against his mother. As we have reported before, police interrogations of juveniles can be a despicable process.
“That second video shows manipulation and brainwashing of my child,” said Shona. He appeared extremely bored and “clearly wanted to say anything to please the officer and get out.”
According to Shona, this interrogation is a “blatant contradiction to the first interview” of her son when it all began at the school.
Shona said that her first attorney allowed Detective Brock to ask Shona questions directly, in a private room with no video. Also, according to Shona, that attorney’s boss did not allow certain things to be discussed because the boss is part of the school board.
Adding to the feeling that forces were lined up against her, the Garden City Telegram published a transcript of the police interrogation before Shona was even aware of the video. This transcript differed from the actual video and painted her in a negative light for the community.
After this debacle in August 2015, the first attorney was asked to withdraw from the case. That attorney then proceeded to charge Shona thousands more than the agreed upon price. When Shona disputed these charges, the attorney managed to have Shona’s bank accounts frozen.
Ani says that attorney had no real defense strategy and “did not understand or appreciate the enormity of the situation.” The first attorney had not even watched the video of Shona’s son being interviewed a second time, despite the importance of that video as evidence. That attorney had also allowed Shona to agree to “truth of fact” presented by authorities in one or more instances, even though there was a logical basis to argue against those alleged truths.
Ani also said that authorities had wrongly interpreted what Shona’s son said at school, believing that Shona was manufacturing methamphetamine. The “innuendo” that led to the raid on Shona’s home was not for medical cannabis, but “illicit drugs manufacturing.”
All in all, Shona described how she was “left to the wolves” of the misguided justice system. She has filed a complaint against her first attorney, who has yet to provide a response. The freezing of Shona’s bank accounts—after being charged thousands more than the agreed-upon price—hardly seems justified considering the first attorney’s transgressions.
The state of Kansas was not done trying to sabotage Shona in its crusade against the peaceful massage therapist who treated her medical condition with a plant.
When Shona arrived in court for a preliminary hearing on November 16, she discovered that the state intended to put her 11-year-old on the stand against her. She promptly waived the hearing to avoid causing this added trauma to her child. Despite this, according to Shona, authorities still took him out of school and brought him to court.
The brave mother’s primary concern, beyond the possibility of jail time, is the well-being of her son. She is perplexed as to why the state felt they needed to haul him to court, even though they had video of his interrogation.
“If videoing a child is done to protect the child from further harm, that video should be used instead of the child physically testifying.
The state cares nothing of my child. I’m the one and only person fighting for his safety. I’m doing everything in my power to right this wrong.”
Jennifer Ani managed to get the CINC case withdrawn and disprove allegations of substance abuse and a dangerous environment. The only allegation that remained “was that on March 24, that one day only, the child was in need of care as a result of alleged emotional abuse.” According to Ani, Kansas is the only state where “clear and convincing” evidence is required in dependency law cases. The state could not meet its own burden of proof for jurisdiction, and a partial custody agreement with the father was agreed upon.
Shona is not backing down from claiming her right to use medical cannabis to treat her debilitating condition, as it has proven to be the most effective means. Attorneys will be able to submit a “medical defense” when she begins trial in July, meaning that evidence of the medical benefits of cannabis can be presented in court. The defense intends to use this opportunity to the fullest extent by bringing in medical experts for testimony.
Shona is determined to seek all remedies available to her under the law, including a possible civil lawsuit in federal court against Kansas state officials. It would assert her constitutional right to use cannabis to treat her Crohn’s disease.
Bills have been introduced in the Kansas legislature to allow the medical use of cannabis, but have never advanced. A narrow bill allowing low-THC cannabis oil for treatment of seizures is having a difficult time getting past drug war fanatics in the chamber.
This is the kind of primitive mindset that Shona is fighting now and has fought since the introduction of her book in 2010. Cannabis works for her illness, and it works for countless others in various ways. The Free Thought Project has reported extensively on the many therapeutic uses of cannabis that are being ever more confirmed by medical science.
Shona suffered with Crohn’s disease for eight years, eventually becoming bed-ridden and having to walk with a cane. She underwent 15 surgeries and had “every organ removed that can be removed” from her body.
In 2007, she watched a documentary called Run From the Cure by Rick Simpson, and realized that the power to cure herself was within reach.
Shona began using a vaporizing machine to make her own cannabis capsules, which she took three times a day. Within weeks, she was “completely changed” and was able to resume a full life with her family. She felt compelled to write a journal, and that turned into the book Live Free or Die.
Last month we reported how the wonders of the endocannabinoid system are only just being explored by medical science, and how cannabis can be used to stimulate this system to treat a host of ailments. Science is confirming what has long been known to humans—cannabis is a medicine.
Now Shona says that being deprived of her treatment is already causing a relapse into those painful days before she discovered the cannabis treatment. She is afraid that without the medicine, she could become a terminal patient again. What worries her even more is the well-being of her sons.
The five charges levied against her by the state of Kansas could amount to more than 30 years in prison, which would essentially be a death sentence, as she would be deprived of the treatment that cures her disease.
If there was ever a time for jury nullification, this is it. Our peers in the jury, if they possess any shred of rationality, will recognize that the case against Shona Banda represents the worst kind of injustice.
To learn more about Shona Banda’s story, sign the petition to Kansas, buy her book or make a donation to her fight, please visit ShonaBanda.org.