In six months, dad, you’re probably going to lose your kids for good. I think you do suspect this, but won’t admit it to yourself. And you don’t want me to tell you why. They’ve been gone a year already, yet you don’t really want to know why.

I can tell this because you make it extremely unpleasant to interact with you. That is what scammers do. When you’re in a situation where you have some power, this may be very effective. It’s called bullying. People want to avoid the conflict, so maybe they get nervous and don’t scrutinize you appropriately, and your bad check or stolen credit card is accepted. Or maybe they give you the refund you want, even without the required receipt, so you’ll go away. But you are not in a one-on-one conflict. Your adversaries are not your equals, and they have very little duty toward you. You are fighting a court and a powerful government agency, backed closely by the police. Your arguments are worth nothing against that. And I’m your only friend in the fight. You shouldn’t want to make me avoid you.

Yet you make it miserable to talk with you, so I do the minimum. I’m just your lawyer; all I have to do is give you adequate legal advice and make sure you don’t get screwed legally. You decide what to do with that. Confronting you with stuff about yourself that you don’t want to hear, well, that goes beyond adequate. I didn’t have the energy or the time yesterday to deal with you arguing and yelling at me for an hour, which is the minimum it would have taken to have even a small chance of getting this through to you. So I’m in that gray area where I know I did my job, butI still feel bad because I know you’ll still fail. I don’t like my clients to lose, even when they’re assholes.

And that is the number one reason why the social worker will not recommend you getting your kids back and the court will follow that recommendation, regardless of what your lawyer argues at trial, regardless of what complaints about the system you have when you take the stand against your lawyer’s advice and ramble on over sustained objections. ( “Motion to strike after ‘Yes.'” “Sustained. SUSTAINED. That means the witness needs to STOP TALKING.” Bailiff approaches menacingly.)

There are a few reasons, and they build on each other to create something we call the totality of circumstances. In summary:

1) You’re a hothead.

2) You’re a hothead who smokes pot.

3) You’re a hothead who smokes pot and has a criminal background, and misses lots of drug tests and skips lots of scheduled visits with your kids because of things that are always someone else’s fault, and is 30 and has never held a job, and has absolutely no shame about telling a social worker that you need your children back so you can get the welfare turned back on. You make this demand to a social worker in your children’s mother’s publicly subsidized Section 8 apartment, where you shamelessly acknowledge that you live illegally because your criminal background precludes you from living there, but there’s no way anyone’s gonna come between you and her. NO WAY! GOT THAT? And during this conversation, your video game station is turned on. Yes, you have a video game system, a newish one, while you are moaning that you have to sell plasma to get by and have no time to do your weekly drug tests and visit your kids AND go to rehab classes three days a week.

If that’s too complicated, I’ll boil it down further: You are the kind of person that taxpaying citizens consider the scum of the earth. When you’re that kind of person, you don’t get to smoke marijuana and parent, even though the voters of California have (graciously! compassionately!) empowered a doctor to defy federal law and grant you a certificate that protects you from criminal conviction for possession (and he/she can do this for virtually any ailment you claim, even if it’s something ridiculous like having eating problems when you’re obviously obese).

And your children are under the control of a system that can, and does, kick parents like that out of their children’s lives permanently. Even when the kids love them and want to go home, like yours do. Under the law, you don’t have to beat your kids to lose them. You just have to be, well, crappy. Legally, it’s called “the nexus,” meaning a connection between substance use and risk of harm to the children. But what the nexus often means is, “you’re crappy, so you don’t get to.”

General crappiness, coupled with almost any illegal activity or use of a mind-altering substance, is enough. That’s the real trouble with medical marijuana. It’s not the bulletproof vest people think it is, not when you have kids. And that’s the problem with you, dad. You either can’t see, or refuse to see, that you’re one of those people whose ice is too thin to stomp around on. I wish I could figure out how to explain it so you’d understand. Lots of crappy people love their kids, and their kids love them back. But the law won’t protect both your family, and your way of life.

Category: Elsewhere

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8 Responses to Advice I wish I could give to that medical marijuana “patient” whose 6 kids are in foster care.

  1. Samson J. says:

    Hey, I think I saw this guy in clinic last week.

  2. Scarlet Knight says:

    I understand your point that your client is a shithead.

    However, I don’t think you should lose your kids for being a shithead. Even if you are breaking the “law”.

    You should lose your kids for physically abusing them. The burden of proof should always be on the state.

    Some kids have shitty parents. That’s life.

  3. stone says:

    Well, Scarlett, therein lies the problem. Because that exactly what child welfare law provides –a prohibition of shitheadery — with its many definitions of child abuse and its piddling little preponderance of the evidence standard.

    I keep trying to come up with something *better* than the nexus, but so far I’m just grateful we even have that.

    It is so easy for me to tell stories that make outside folks hate the government. But to garner that sympathy, I usually have to leave out lots of details about the actual clients. For instance, the shitty parents are virtually always dependent upon welfare, which gets taken from them along with their children. It’s like they’re getting fired from their jobs as nannies for the government.

    Fuck the bottom 99 percent. I want to talk about the bottom 20 percent. That’s where the problems are. No one wants to talk about them or hang out with them or look at them on TV.

  4. stone says:

    Hey samson: By “in clinic,” do you mean “methadone?” I’m interested, because I have very few heroin parents (most are pot/coke/meth), and the ones I have had tend to be fairly pleasant folks, at least to me, but have terrible results at staying clean and getting their kids back.

    If that is your clinic, what do you think about the new “maintenance dosage” thing, wherein you’re not expected to kick but just “maintain?” I had a guy yesterday who was doing well on “maintenance” but all was lost when his general relief got cut off and he got kicked off the clinic and went “back on the spoon,” as he put it. I actually liked that guy.

  5. Kirk says:

    I’m currently watching “Breaking Bad,” via Netflix. Your descriptions of your life as a lawyer remind me of the “Better Call Saul,” character.

    Anyway, I can’t believe they made a fake website for the guy. I love the little hamster in the car.

  6. stone says:

    Well, Saul’s clients are often criminals, but they also have beaucoup bucks. He was hilarious, but also annoyed me because clients get unrealistic expectations from watching characters like that. It leads them to think that if a lawyer’s really trying, she should be able to get them off no matter what they did. And they whine about how if they could afford “a real lawyer,” things would be different, because they see shows like that where lawyers easily lie, bribe, and engage in other scams for the benefit of their clients.

  7. Samson J. says:

    Hey samson: By “in clinic,” do you mean “methadone?

    Sheila, I was kidding around; the person in your story sounds very archetypal, and I’ve seen a few guys *like* him, but I don’t think I literally saw that guy, unless you’ve secretly moved to Canada. Sorry if I came across as dead serious – humour so often fails online.

    I’m happy to try and answer your questions, though. I don’t work in a methadone or other addictions-related clinic, but I spent time in one during medical school.

    because I have very few heroin parents (most are pot/coke/meth), and the ones I have had tend to be fairly pleasant folks, at least to me, but have terrible results at staying clean and getting their kids back.

    Where I come from, heroin is essentially non-existent. The narcotics problem is generally prescription oxycontin, dilaudid, etc. that is obtained nefariously and sold on the street. I suppose I agree that many of the addicts I met were fairly nice people – superficially, at any rate, although I’m aware that they are very good at *seeming* nice when they want something from you.

    If that is your clinic, what do you think about the new “maintenance dosage” thing, wherein you’re not expected to kick but just “maintain?”

    Based on my limited experience in addictions work, my impression is that achieving “maintenance dose” status is legitimately the best that can be expected of some people. I cautiously support the concept.

  8. stone says:

    “although I’m aware that they are very good at *seeming* nice when they want something from you.”

    Nah, not the meth ones. Not at all. Usually not the coke ones either. And potheads are, on average, a lot less mellow than the cultural stereotype would suggest (as with the dad above).

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