This story is absolutely heartbreaking. Cannabis laws across the nation really make no sense. A Michigan family, traveling in Alabama, had their baby taken from them by police after it was discovered they were driving with marijuana. Marijuana is legal in their home state, but illegal in Alabama.
Erika Prock left Michigan on Wednesday, March 10, and drove all night to Hamilton, in northern Alabama. She picked up her husband there, and stayed at his parent’s home for a few hours before heading back to Michigan. However, the family stopped for lunch in Moulton, Alabama. Someone reported a disturbance, and police arrived to find Mr. Prock smoking a cigarette near his car. The police claimed they smelled cannabis, to which Mr. Prock said he had some locked in the trunk. The police then arrested both Procks and placed their 18-month old toddler in foster care.
“Although an officer may exercise discretion,” stated Lawrence County District Attorney Errek Jett, whose office is on the Prock case, “there is no provision under the laws of Alabama to permit possession of marijuana if the individual is from a state where it is lawful.”
“In short, possession of marijuana is illegal under our laws,” continued Jett. “A similar situation exists where one of our citizens has a pistol carry permit but travels to New York for instance. In that situation, the Alabama citizen has committed a criminal offense under the laws of the State of New York.”
“If we could have taken our situation and transported it to Michigan, we would have been on our way,” Erika Prock said. “None of this would have happened. Nothing. Like absolutely nothing.”
In addition to the marijuana charges, the parents were charged with felony chemical endangerment. The charge is strange and somewhat unique to Alabama and a few other states. It is meant to punish parents that operate meth labs near kids. Although marijuana is nothing like meth, don’t tell that to Alabama. Their laws on cannabis are primordial at best, even when other states are legalizing marijuana. The courts are saying the parents allowed the child to inhale marijuana, which would then give them the ability to charge the couple for felony chemical endangerment.
Police found four-and-a-half ounces of marijuana, “and several tools, bowls, and various other items with residue on them in close proximity to an 18-month-old child in a car.” The smoking accessories can be considered for additional charges.
“I don’t understand how the same situation in two different states can differ so drastically to the point where in one state your child is taken and put into foster care over marijuana and you’re charged with chemical endangerment,” stated Mrs. Prock, “but in another state, they consider it legal and safe and you go home to your family that night and never have to worry about your child being taken.”
“Some counties treat marijuana the same as they treat methamphetamine, cocaine, or opiates,” stated Gar Blume, an attorney who works in family court. “It’s the same as any other illegal drug to them.”
The Procks have not returned to Michigan. Mr. Prock is also facing felony charges for marijuana possession in connection with the incident. Their child is currently with a foster family, and the Procks are staying with their in-laws while they fight to regain custody. Additionally, the Procks have other children back home in Michigan they haven’t seen in months. They are also still paying rent and bills for their home, while staying in Alabama.
Mr. Prock has been unable to work since the arrest. Both parents are just worried sick about their child. “They just ripped him away from me,” Mrs. Prock declared. “It was like he was being kidnapped.”
The Procks claim that the Department of Human Resources in Alabama will send their child to his grandparents’ house in Michigan soon. Once he is there in their home state, Mrs. Prock believes the custody case will work out well. However, the couple must still fight their other charges in an Alabama court.