This Is Your War on Drugs

New York is opening child neglect files on parents, over weed:


Hundreds of New Yorkers who have been caught with small amounts of marijuana, or who have simply admitted to using it, have become ensnared in civil child neglect cases in recent years, though they did not face even the least of criminal charges, according to city records and defense lawyers. A small number of parents in these cases have even lost custody of their children. 

New York City's child welfare agency said that it was pursuing these cases for appropriate reasons, and that marijuana use by parents could often hint at other serious problems in the way they cared for their children.

It certainly could. As could too many hours logged on the X-box. The key seems to be here:


Lauren Shapiro, director of the Brooklyn Family Defense Project, which defends most parents facing neglect charges in Family Court in Brooklyn, said more than 90 percent of the cases alleging drug use that her lawyers handle involve marijuana, as opposed to other drugs. "There is not the same use of crack cocaine as there used to be, so they are filing these cases instead," Ms. Shapiro said. 

Marijuana is the most common illicit drug in New York City: 730,000 people, or 12 percent of people age 12 and older, use the drug at least once annually, according to city health data. Over all, the rate of marijuana use among whites is twice as high as among blacks and Hispanics in the city, the data show, but defense lawyers said these cases were rarely if ever filed against white parents.

As an aside, I'd hear more about those drug numbers. It's not that I expect blacks and Hispanics to smoke more than whites. But I also wouldn't expect the rate among whites to be twice as high.
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Ta-Nehisi Coates is a national correspondent at The Atlantic, where he writes about culture, politics, and social issues. He is the author of the memoir The Beautiful Struggle.

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