Utah Parents Who Fed Children Marijuana Charged with Endangerment of a Child

Two young children who were fed marijuana have been taken into protective custody after their parents were charged with endangerment of a child.

Concerned extended family

Extended family members contacted the Utah Division of Child and Family Services concerned for the welfare of the young children of 28 year old Jacob Francis Sickler and 40 year old Katie Jennifer Blackham. Family members told DCFS the young children were not well cared for and were being exposed to drugs by their parents. The parents were reported to have regularly used drugs near their children and in order to implement “quiet time”, had even fed their kids marijuana. The 3 and 4 year old children were removed by DCFS and a hair follicle test concluded they had marijuana and cocaine in their system. Their parents were arrested for child abuse and endangerment of a child.

Endangerment of a child

According to Utah Code 76-5-112.5, a person is guilty of a second degree felony “ . . . if the person knowingly or intentionally causes or permits a child or a vulnerable adult to be exposed to, inhale, ingest, or have contact with a controlled substance, chemical substance, or drug paraphernalia [and] as a result . . . a child or vulnerable adult suffers bodily injury, substantial bodily injury, or serious bodily injury”. Since there were two children exposed to drugs, Sickler and Blackham will face one second degree felony for each child affected. Second degree felonies are punishable under Utah law with a possible prison term of one to 15 years for each charge as well as a fine up to $10,000 per charge.

Division of Family and Child Services

The children of Sickler and Blackham were taken into protective custody by DCFS but may be released to those family members concerned for their well-being if DCFS determines it is in the best interest of the children. According to the Utah Department of Human Services, the mission of DCFS is: “To keep children safe from abuse and neglect and provide domestic violence services by working with communities and strengthening families.” They offer parenting and other educational classes for families in an effort to prevent DCFS from having to get involved in familial affairs. When instances involving abuse or neglect arise however, DCFS will step in and remove the children from the home.

Reconnecting families

While some families dealing with criminal charges for drug abuse have family members who can step in and care for their children, others do not. In these situations, the children are then placed in foster care. DCFS states: “Foster care is a temporary intervention for children who are unable to remain safely in their homes. Children in foster care stay with a family who provides safety, nurturing, and support. Every effort is made to keep children with their families unless the safety needs of the children or legal mandates indicate otherwise.” Utah Foster Care also notes: “The primary goal of foster care is to provide a nurturing home for children until it is safe for them to return to their biological families. When it is safe to do so, returning home is best for the children.” All parents make mistakes some make choices so grave they lose their freedom and parental rights. While this loss can be permanent if the charges they face are severe, it is often temporary. The state of Utah wants to keep families together and offers support and treatment opportunities for parents, including those fighting substance abuse. Parents who are facing criminal charges where their parental rights are threatened are encouraged to seek a knowledgeable criminal defense attorney who can help guide them through the legal process of obtaining rehabilitation and reunification.

Marijuana Clandestine Lab Busted in 55+ Utah Community

A marijuana clandestine lab was busted in a 55+ community located in Southern Utah and at least one person arrested was as senior citizen.

Semi-retired

Photo by: Mark

63 year old Richard James Hughes, a senior resident in the retirement community of SunRiver St. George was arrested after drug enforcement agents uncovered a marijuana lab Hughes and 38 year old Bradley Cameron Madsen were operating out of Hughes home and garage. Agents delivered a search warrant upon the house while unsuspecting neighbors in the peaceful neighborhood watched in disbelief. Authorities discovered an excessive amount of dried marijuana and equipment likely used to make Dab, a potent butane hash oil with a highly concentrated amount of THC. Dab is used to result in a stronger and more rapid high than normal smoking of marijuana would be able to produce. Hughes and Madsen were arrested on multiple charges including engaging in a clandestine laboratory operation.

Clandestine lab

Utah Code 58-37d-4 states “It is unlawful for any person to knowingly or intentionally . . . engage in compounding, synthesis, concentration, purification, separation, extraction, or other physical or chemical processing of any substance, including a controlled substance.” That section goes on the note that “a person who violates [this subsection] is guilty of a second degree felony punishable by imprisonment for an indeterminate term of not less than 3 years nor more than 15 years.”

Hobby or side job

Hughes’ neighbors were shocked to hear that a fellow resident in the popular retirement community was engaging in illegal activity involving operating a clandestine lab. Some may have wondered if he stumbled into a unorthodox hobby that came with legal hazards or if he picked up a “work from home” job to support himself financially, much like other residents trying to survive in one of the faster growing areas in Utah. Regardless of the reason, according to Utah law, he will have at least “3 years nor more than 15” to figure things out before he is released back into the community.

Reduction in Opioid-Related Deaths in States with Legalized Marijuana

As Utah continues to hold the leash tight on legalizing marijuana, other states who have sanctioned this “gate-way” drug are reporting a reduction in opioid-related deaths and overall opioid use.

Relief from chronic pain

Photo by: Jorge Gonzalez

Many addicts that abuse opioids, whether through pill form or through substances such as heroin start off with a prescription written out by a caring medical practitioner. These prescriptions are often given to relieve chronic pain as a result of injuries or medical conditions. The National Institutes of Health states: “more than 25 million Americans suffer from daily chronic pain.” NIH adds that “[m]ore than 2 million Americans have OUD [opioid use disorder]. Millions more misuse opioids, taking opioid medications longer or in higher doses than prescribed.” What begins as a way to manage pain or other ailments however can quickly spiral into a lifelong dependency on opioids that is often dangerously supported using street drugs or illegally acquired pills when prescriptions are no longer being filled.

Safer alternative to pain pills

In a country that lost over 20,000 citizens to opioid related deaths in 2016 according to NIH, there has to be safer alternatives to help individuals manage chronic pain and other debilitating conditions. According to an article published by the US National Library of Medicine National Institutes of Health, there has been a notable decrease in opioid-related deaths in Colorado consequent of the legalization of recreational cannabis. The report which uses the state of Colorado to draw its association said: “Colorado’s legalization of recreational cannabis sales and use resulted in a 0.7 deaths per month . . . reduction in opioid-related deaths. This reduction represents a reversal of the upward trend in opioid-related deaths in Colorado.”

Decreasing opioid dependency

Photo by: Mark

While the US National Library of Medicine plans on analyzing data from other states, other research groups have already done so in regards to overall opioid use in marijuana-friendly states. These reports have all shown that in states where marijuana is legal for recreational or at least medicinal use, there has been a definite decrease in opioid abuse. One of the studies showed a 4% decrease in opioids beings prescribed for those covered under federal and state health insurance programs in states that had lenient marijuana laws. This percentage decrease did not include those covered under private insurance. When patients seek help from doctors to manage chronic pain and other conditions, doctors in marijuana-friendly states now have another alternative to offer their patients. Doctors can either write patients a prescription for dangerously addicting opioids or direct their patients to the nearest marijuana dispensary. Many medical practitioners whose life’s goals are to help people are now choosing marijuana as a safer alternative to prescription opioids when helping their patients with their ailments.

Utah, bringing up the rear

The Utah Department of Health stated: “From 2013 to 2015, Utah ranked 7th highest in the nation for drug overdose deaths.” They also noted that “in 2015, 24 individuals (residents and non-residents) died every month from a prescription opioid overdose in Utah.” In a state that is plagued by the opioid epidemic, why has Utah been dragging their feet with marijuana laws? While some may see the problem with allowing the plant to be used recreationally, there is minimal logic to support why medical use of marijuana has not yet been openly approved in Utah. Fortunately, there are small steps being made with allowing medical marijuana use in Utah. The Utah Medical Marijuana Initiative was passed by the senate earlier this year and will be on the ballot in November. If enough Utah residents vote “yes” on the initiative, patients with a qualifying illness or chronic pain can be issued a medical cannabis card, allowing them to obtain medical marijuana to manage their illnesses instead of using harmful opioids. Hopefully then will Utah finally be able to see a reduction in opioid-related deaths among its residents.