Every year, hundreds of NYC parents busted for pot possession—the vast majority of them recreational smokers—get caught in bitter legal battles with the city to keep their children. Parents with no criminal records routinely lose custody of their children after a small level marijuana bust, even in cases where the police didn't press charges. In an excellent article in today's Times, one Penelope Harris talks about how her son and niece were taken away after police searched her home and found a quantity of marijuana so small they couldn't even charge her with a misdemeanor.

"I felt like less of a parent, like I had failed my children," Harris tells the Times. "It tore me up." Her 10-year-old son spent a week in foster care, and her niece, who was living with her as a foster child, spent more than a year in another home as Harris underwent a lengthy child neglect inquiry. Police had searched her Bronx home because they suspected she was dealing drugs, but she says the small amount of pot they found belonged to her boyfriend, and that she didn't smoke marijuana. A drug test proved her right. Harris has no criminal record and wasn't charged for pot possession, but the Administration for Children’s Services has been holding parents to a different standard than the criminal justice system.

Lauren Shapiro, director of the Brooklyn Family Defense Project, says the case workers breaking up these families are just trying to justify their salaries. "There is not the same use of crack cocaine as there used to be, so they are filing these cases instead," she tells the Times. Other defense lawyers point out—and this may not shock you—that these custody cases are "rarely if ever" filed against white parents.