War vet­eran’s five chil­dren in Kansas cus­tody over pot use

The Denver Post - - FRONT PAGE - By David Olinger

Ray­mond Sch­wab, an hon­or­ably dis­charged vet­eran, moved to Colorado last year to get med­i­cal mar­i­juana treat­ment for post-trau­matic stress dis­or­der and chronic pain.

He didn’t ex­pect Kansas would take his chil­dren in re­turn.

“They’re ba­si­cally us­ing my kids as a pawn to take away free­doms I fought for,” he said. “It’s a hor­ri­ble po­si­tion to put me in.”

He and his wife, Amelia, say Kansas took the five youngest of their six chil­dren into cus­tody in April, and they’ve seen them only three times since.

“I don’t think what we’re do­ing is il­le­gal, im­moral or wrong,” Amelia said.

The Sch­wabs’ case high­lights how dif­fer­ences in mar­i­juana laws can make a le­gal user in one state an un­fit par­ent across the bor­der.

They’re not the only Kansas par­ents at risk of los­ing their chil­dren over cannabis use. In Gar­den City, med­i­cal mar­i­juana ad­vo­cate Shona Banda was ar­rested on child-en­dan­ger­ment and felony drug charges af­ter her 11-year-old son talked at school about his mother’s drug use.

Kansas has re­jected leg­isla­tive ef­forts to per­mit med­i­cal mar­i­juana use. Colorado le­gal­ized med­i­cal mar­i­juana then passed a ref­er­en­dum that al­lows recre­ational use as well.

Child wel­fare of­fi­cials in Kansas did not re­turn phone calls Wed­nes­day con­cern­ing the Sch­wabs.

Ray­mond Sch­wab is a 40-year-old Gulf War vet­eran. He served from 1994 to 1996 in the Navy and later qual­i­fied for a 50 per­cent dis­abil­ity rat­ing.

He lived in Colorado when the state le­gal­ized med­i­cal mar­i­juana, and he ob­tained his own card.

He also tried to treat his symp­toms with an as­sort­ment of medicines pre­scribed by the Depart­ment of Veter­ans Affairs — pain medicines, mus­cle re­lax­ants, anti-anx­i­ety drugs — but “they were mak­ing me crazy; they made me worse,” he said.

Fi­nally, he de­vel­oped a heroin ad­dic­tion, but he said he over­came that years ago with cannabis ther­apy.

The turn­ing point in his fam­ily life be­gan with a VA job of­fer in 2013. He went to Topeka to work as a ben­e­fits agent for fel­low veter­ans. “I loved it. I loved my job,” he said tear­fully. But two years later, he de­cided to trans­fer to a VA job in Den­ver, where med­i­cal cannabis is le­gal. That’s when a fam­ily squab­ble led to the loss of five chil­dren, ages 5-16.

Ray­mond and Amelia say that as they were pack­ing to leave, her mother took the kids to a po­lice sta­tion in an­other county and re­ported them aban­doned, an ac­tion her mother now re­grets.

Nine months later, they say, child-pro­tec­tion work­ers and a Kansas judge are de­mand­ing that they give up cannabis if they want their kids back.

One con­di­tion, they say, is four months of drugfree uri­nal­y­sis tests, in­clud­ing a drug that is le­gal in Colorado for ther­a­peu­tic uses.

Ray­mond re­mains skep­ti­cal and wor­ried. “What if I didn’t make it through four months?” he asked. He fears his con­di­tion might worsen with­out cannabis.

He and his wife ques­tion why Kansas child-pro­tec­tion work­ers are hold­ing onto chil­dren who should not have en­tered their sys­tem in the first place.

Among the doc­u­ments Ray­mond car­ries in a bat­tered brief­case is the one-page re­sult of a Kansas child-abuse in­ves­ti­ga­tion.

It shows that in April, the state be­gan in­ves­ti­gat­ing al­le­ga­tions that Ray­mond and Amelia emo­tion­ally abused all five chil­dren. Three months later, those al­le­ga­tions were dis­missed as un­sub­stan­ti­ated.

So, “why do you still have my chil­dren?” he asked.

Gulf War vet­eran Ray­mond Sch­wab and his wife, Amelia, pic­tured Wed­nes­day in Den­ver, are with­out the five youngest of their six chil­dren. The kids are be­ing held in Kansas. He­len H. Richard­son, The Den­ver Post

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