I've been following the story of Joshua Hakken. Louisiana police found him and his wife, Sharyn, in a hotel room last June with their two little boys, some pot and a pipe, and "weapons", after being notified of a disturbance. Police claim the couple was "under the influence of narcotics" (marijuana) and Joshua was charged with "Possession of Marijuana, Possession of Drug Paraphernalia, and the Use of a Controlled and Dangerous Substance in the Presence of Minors."
That would be the marijuana, not the weapons, which were apparently all legally possessed, as there were no weapons charges added.
While Joshua, their father, spent a week or so in a Louisiana jail, their mother, Sharyn, was not charged with any crimes and was not in jail. But the state of Louisiana didn't leave the children with their free mother. The state took the one-year-old and the three-year-old from the Hakken family and placed them into foster care. Because, you see, when the police arrived, the Hakkens were a little under the influence and babbling about taking a final journey to Armageddon. And since there were "narcotics"* and (completely legal) weapons in the room, they must be crazy suiciders and an imminent danger to their kids.
What happens next would seem to be the actions of a desperate man. Upon release from jail, Joshua allegedly takes a gun and finds the foster home where his little boys are kept. He's unable to get into the home and flees as the foster parents call 911. From that action, a Louisiana judge grants permanent custody of the children to their grandmother. Fast forward to months later, this week, when Joshua allegedly ties up grandma with zip ties and abducts his own kids from her home in Florida.
Immediately the Florida sheriffs are characterizing Joshua as having been arrested in Louisiana at an "anti-government rally." The Amber Alert for the kids prominently describes the "anti-government" dad as "armed and dangerous." When I first read "anti-government rally", I wondered, "which one: Occupy, Tea Party, or the GOP Convention?"
We've now learned that Joshua and Sharyn and their two boys and family dog boarded their sailboat and made it to Cuba. The authorities in Cuba, despite lacking an extradition treaty with the United States, agree to send the Hakkens back to the United States, where their children can be placed back with grandma and their parents can miss their kids' entire childhood serving time for kidnapping, burglary with battery, and a host of other charges.
We also hear from the Louisiana police that they have no idea what this "anti-government rally" is. Nobody can seem to figure out how that became part of the narrative. Mike Riggs at Reason dug into Joshua's online postings and found him to be somewhat libertarian, a little bit Tea Party, maybe a dash of atheist, but nothing like the rantings of say, the Unabomber, BTK, or even Julian Assange.
I'm not here to defend Joshua's actions. Many people lose their kids to child protective services for the flimsiest of reasons, but most of them grit their teeth, suck it up, and wade through the execrable morass that is civil family law in America. That foster family didn't deserve to have a gun-toting angry dad scaring the hell out of them. Grandma didn't deserve to be zip-tied in her own home. And those two little boys didn't deserve the dangerous ninety-mile sailboat trip in a rough ocean that put them at risk.
But I can't help but go back to that June night in the hotel room in Slidell, Louisiana, and ask, "If it had been a case of beer instead of pot and a pipe, wouldn't the Hakken family still be together?"
For if it were beer, what do you charge the dad with? Overzealous Apocalyptic Babbling while Drunk? 3rd Degree Creeping Us Out? There is no sign they weren't loving and capable parents. There is no sign they possessed their weapons illegally or carelessly. Even if cops did find the need to take a drunk and creepy Joshua in for the night, wouldn't they have left the kids with Sharyn?
But because it is marijuana, a "narcotic"*, it's a crime to have this "dangerous substance" in the presence of minors. We must protect the children by traumatically separating them from their mom and dad and placing them with a stranger.
Not the weapons, though. It's no crime to have that "dangerous substance" in the presence of minors. Which leads me to some other news from the past 30 days:
(The Guardian) "A four-year-old boy in New Jersey has shot dead a playmate aged six with a .22-calibre rifle in what police have said was an accident. ...it was too early in the investigation to know whether anyone would be charged."
(Times-Picayune) "A 4-year-old boy grabbed a loaded gun at a family cookout and accidentally shot and killed the wife of a sheriff's deputy, authorities said on Monday. ...[the sheriff] would wait for the TBI to complete its investigation before making a decision about what to do with the deputy, but did not anticipate that the shooting would affect Fanning's job."
(Myrtle Beach Online) "Police say a 3-year-old child has died after finding a gun in an apartment in Sumter ... Police say they are investigating the shooting and have not released any other details. No charges have been filed."
(Alabama.com) "The gun grabbed by a Mobile 4-year-old who accidentally and fatally shot himself on Easter Sunday was in plain sight and had no safety mechanism, according to Mobile County District Attorney Ashley Rich. ... The District Attorney's Office is working with federal law enforcement officials, including the U.S. Attorney's Office, to determine whether charges can be filed..."
(NBC News) "A 10-month-old boy was shot and killed by his father Thursday in an apparent accident at a Nashville, Tenn., hotel, local media reported. ... Attempts to reach the police department were unsuccessful early Friday. WSMV said a police investigation was continuing."
Here we have five children killed by a dangerous substance -- bullets -- and yet it takes weeks of investigation to determine whether anyone will be charged with a crime, if at all.
But if you have a bag of weed in your hotel room and cops think you're apocalyptic, they might take your kids right away and throw you in jail immediately, no questions asked.
Hell, you really don't even need to be talking apocalyptically or have any weapons. Marijuana alone -- even legally-used medical marijuana! -- is enough for the state to declare you a menace to children:
(Lake County News) "A Redwood Valley man was arrested Sunday in Lakeport for possession of more than three pounds of processed marijuana and child endangerment."
(Freehold Patch) "Resident Accused of Marijuana Possession and Child Endangerment - A Freehold man faces three drug related charges after he allegedly possessed marijuana in a home where he had legal duty to care for a child."
("The Buffalo News) Paul F. Seagrave Jr., 28, of Kenmore, was on a break from work and went to the Niagara falls Boulevard motel room to smoke marijuana with a co-worker and the baby-sitter, deputuies said. He was charged with child endangerment, possession of marijuana and criminal possession of a controlled substance. Child Protective Services also was notified, deputies said."
(Redding Record-Searchlight) "Saengthong Mounivong, 44, and Danile Vorabout, 48, were arrested on suspicion of several charges related to marijuana and child endangerment, said deputies with the Trinity County Sheriff's Office. They said they found 95 pounds of processed marijuana, a gun, four growing plants and 165 seedlings."
(The Daily Chronic) "Medical marijuana patient Daisy Bram was ...arrested on ... suspicion of cultivating marijuana, possessing it for sale and child endangerment. The child endangerment charges stemmed from marijuana being found in the home with children present, as well as Daisy's consumption of cannabis while breastfeeding. Her children have been seized once again, as has her 12-year-old personal vehicle, which authorities claimed was purchased with the fruits of crime."
You can keep a loaded gun within the reach of your kids and if they shoot someone dead with it, it's just an accident. But if you keep some marijuana within the reach of your kids and they... they... they what?!? Accidentally eat it? Roll some up and smoke it? Steal some and sell to other school kids? No matter what happens with the pot, nobody is going to die! Yet you could be charged with "child endangerment" and lose your kids and go to jail.
If there is any "endangerment" to the kids, you could really stretch the definition by supposing that since pot is illegal, and if you have a lot of pot, you may be a target for violent theft. But then being rich, period, is "child endangerment" by that definition. I suppose it's "endangerment" in the sense that a kid who ate some might have a bad trip, but by that definition, every parent in America better have a locked liquor cabinet and a locked medicine cabinet and keep a close eye on their cigarettes.
No, folks, this is just yet another way marijuana smokers are second-class citizens in America. You can drink all the beer you like and we'd have to prove your bad parenting before taking your kids, but smoke any pot at all and you are a bad parent by definition. You can have all the guns you like and your kid has to shoot someone before anybody asks about your home gun safety procedures, but smoke any pot at all and it is assumed you're recklessly setting the stage for your child's drug addiction.
If we really cared about the children, we'd legalize marijuana.
* Cannabis is not a narcotic, but that's what police keep calling it.