Just before closing time on Friday, the Herald posted a story about a 13-year-old Everett girl who turned in her parents to the police for growing pot in the house. Since then, a small war has erupted in the newspaper's comments section between medical marijuana supporters and opponents, as well as child welfare advocates. Particularly important to this case are the facts that both parents have valid medical marijuana licenses and the 13-year-old girl reported that she was told by her mom and dad to help grow the pot plants, trimming buds and mixing soil as part of her chores.
The girl told a resource officer at Everett Middle School about the weed plants and her chores. The school, in turn, told police.
The raid was carried out last Wednesday by the Snohomish Regional Drug Task Force.
Now the girl, along with three other children who lived in the house, are in the custody of Child Protective Services.
The parents, an unnamed 39-year-old man and 35-year-old woman, meanwhile, were booked in Snohomish County Jail, until bonding out over the weekend.
The police confiscated 64 pot plants at the house--a little more than twice Washington's legal limit, which is defined as no more than 60 days worth or 15 plants per licensee.
The case raises an important question of when children's "chores" become illegal. If the couple had indeed run afoul of their medical pot license guidelines by growing too many plants, does that make the children's work a type of child abuse? Or are children barred from helping their parents to grow such medicine regardless of whether it's within the legal limit?
Both questions appear not to be answered by state law. The most detailed address given to the subject appears to be in the lengthy "Patient Access to Medical Marijuana in Washington State," which notes that "State medical marijuana laws are silent on child safety issues."
The 60-day, 15-plant limit defined under Washington law also seems to leave plenty of gray area in it, saying in one section of the law that the limit "may be overcome with evidence of a qualifying patient's necessary medical use."
So while the girl and her siblings appear to be free of having to help their parents grow medical pot, whether it's worth them being turned over to CPS and enduring what could be a long stay in the state's foster care system, remains in doubt.
Meanwhile, look for the case to become precedent setting as it works its way through the courts.