Distribution of Marijuana and Child Edangerment. Those charges were read against Christopher Desimone and his girlfriend Ann Marie Farrow in the Attleboro District Court on Monday.
According to the Sun Chronicle, Desimone is a divorced father of two daughters aged 8 and 11. Desimone's ex-wife has physical custody of the kids while Desimone lives with Farrow in Attleboro. The two girls were visiting their father's home two weeks ago when the alleged crime took place. The prosecution alleged that Farrow baked marijuana brownies and Desimone encouraged the girls to try them. One girl had a brownie crumb and the other took one bite. Neither felt any effects. Some time after the girls returned home, they told their mother that they had been served brownies laced with marijuana. Their mother took one girl to a doctor for a drug test, which came back positive for marijuana.
Two Attleboro Police Officers conducted an investigation culminating in the arrest of Desimone and Farrow on Friday. The couple apparently spent the weekend in custody. The chief of police said the case was "deeply disturbing." At their arraignments in the Attleboro District Court, the prosecution asked for relatively high bails of $1500 and $1000 and noted that [t]he commonwealth takes drug distribution to children quite seriously." (Yes, she said "quite" seriously.) Attorneys for the defendants, on the other hand, requested dismissals.
One attorney pointed out that sharing marijuana cannot support a charge of marijuana distribution. In addition, he argued that reckless endangerment requires "evidence that the children were in danger or suffered serious bodily harm." With regard to "sharing," the marijuana, the judge asked the attorney whether he was "suggesting that the child [was] socially sharing marijuana?" The judge then denied the requests for dismissal and set bails of $1,000 for Desimone and $500 for Farrow.
First, a few questions on the factual allegations. Why did it take two weeks for the case to be brought? Did the kids wait two weeks before telling their mother? Did it take two weeks to get the results of the drug test? Even if it did, why wait? Weren't the words of the children enough? How did the children know that the brownies had been laced with marijuana? Did one or both of the defendants tell them there was marijuana in the brownies? It appears so, otherwise how do you explain that one girl had just a crumb and the other had just one bite. Most kids don't hold back like that on dessert.
For the record, let me say that for the most part, I share the sentiments of the chief. This story, on its face, is disturbing. I also agree with the prosecutor in that distributing drugs to children should be taken very seriously.
But, lets look at the application of the law to the allegations and look at the allegations in light this state's developing marijuana policies.
In 2012 Massachusetts decided to decriminalize the possession less than one ounce of marijuana. Last year, the Supreme Judicial Court did, in fact, rule that passing a joint around was an act of social sharing, and therefore, not illegal distribution. Soon there will be legal medical marijuana distribution centers across the state. Three of them will be operated by a man who is former Congressman and former Top District Attorney for Norfolk County. There is actually a provision (725.015) in the medical marijuana regulations allowing "qualified [marijuana] patient" status to children under the age of 18. The regulations do not have a minimum age requirement. Is it possible that some time in the future the medical marijuana distribution centers will become profitable recreational marijuana distribution centers?
How does this relate to the story? Well, first of all, the perception of marijuana as drug that is either dangerous or even unhealthy has been all but eliminated. After crossing that line how much further must one go to reach the ludicrous conclusion that a little pot brownie may be good for a child. Assuming that the allegations against Desimone and Farrow are true, isn't this the probable scenario. Isn't it likely that Desimone and/or Farrow themselves use marijuana and believe it to be harmless? Some cultures allow young children to sip wine on holidays. Is pot next? Let's hope not.
What about second hand medical marijuana smoke? Will there be any regulations against smoking in the same room with children? If not, aren't they likely to fail a drug test? What would the consequences be for the medical marijuana parent?
What about the charge of child endangerment? To be convicted of this crime there must be proof beyond a reasonable doubt that the person charged did something that created a "substantial risk of serious bodily injury . . . to a child." Did Desimone and Farrow do this? While it is hard to imagine any justification for giving them the brownies, they did not force them to eat more than the experimental amounts, and neither child showed any negative effects, never mind serious bodily injury. Can it reasonably be said that there was a risk of serious bodily injury? That will be a question for a jury and jurors are members of the community. The community at present is taking a very different view of marijuana.
Desimone has been arrested, held on bail, and will surely be thoroughly investigated by the Massachusetts Department of Family and Children. While that appears to be justified, real issues remain with regard to the state of the law in this regard.