Crime

Records detail medical marijuana advocate Shona Banda's extensive pot use in her Kansas home

Shona Banda was thrust into the center of the nation’s marijuana debate when her son was taken by Kansas authorities after he made comments at school about his mother’s weed use. Marijuana advocates say Banda was unfairly targeted, but arrest records tell a slightly different story.
Shona Banda was thrust into the center of the nation’s marijuana debate when her son was taken by Kansas authorities after he made comments at school about his mother’s weed use. Marijuana advocates say Banda was unfairly targeted, but arrest records tell a slightly different story. skeyser@kcstar.com

Marijuana advocates say the state of Kansas unfairly targeted one Garden City mom for using weed to treat her medical condition.

Her arrest affidavit paints a slightly different picture.

Shona Banda, 38, faces five charges related to marijuana use and child endangerment after her 11-year-old son talked about her drug use during an anti-drug program at school.

The boy said “my mom smokes … a lot!” during the drug program and “appeared to have too much information related to the drug,” even citing various strains of marijuana, according to Banda’s arrest affidavit.

The comments made four months ago sparked an investigation, a house raid and an ongoing criminal case and child in need of care case.

Banda’s arrest affidavit provides some insight on the state’s case against her. The Finney County district attorney’s office has, for the most part, kept quiet about the case.

Sarah Swain, Banda’s attorney, would not comment about the case Wednesday.

But in a June interview with The Wichita Eagle, Swain said she thought the state illegally interviewed Banda’s son without the mother’s permission. Swain also said Banda shouldn’t be sanctioned for using weed, given its medicinal value to treat her Crohn’s disease, an inflammatory bowel condition. Swain said Banda makes cannabis oil, which she ingests for her condition.

The 11-year-old boy told detectives about the cannabis oil.

But he also said that his mom smoked weed everyday with her 18-year-old son, Joshua Banda, and his live-in girlfriend, Tequila Mader, 18.

They smoked in the basement using a tie-dye-colored glass pipe, according to the affidavit, and would leave the pipe on a basement table next to a clear zip-close bag of pot.

Much of the affidavit’s information comes from interviews of Banda’s son with Garden City police officers and social workers from the Kansas Department for Children and Families on March 24.

In an interview with Clint Brock, a detective for Finney County law enforcement, the 11-year-old said he last saw the marijuana the previous evening. The week before, he said, his mom had gone to Colorado for a few days and returned with a bag of marijuana that was four inches in diameter.

According to the affidavit, the boy had “unusual and specific knowledge regarding marijuana and its use.”

The boy even knew in great detail how to turn marijuana into cannabis oil. He drew Brock a picture of the vaporizer his mom used to extract cannabis oil. The picture was kept as evidence.

The 11-year-old said Banda kept three vaporizers in their kitchen and described how she would use a spatula to remove residue from inside the dome. She would then place the residue in a syringe to inject the residue into gelatin caplets.

The boy said Banda kept weed extract in the kitchen freezer in a container for Ovaltine, a chocolate powder drink mix, or in a hidden closet behind their washing machine in the basement.

Banda arrived at the Finney County Law Enforcement Center while officers interviewed her son, and she was escorted to an interview room where Brock, the detective, interviewed her.

During the interview, Banda denied officers permission to go into her house.

According to the affidavit, Banda showed Brock a YouTube video of her with a vaporizer.

The video showed Banda placing what looks like marijuana into the vaporizer. The dome then filled with smoke, and after a while she used a spatula to scrape the cannabis oil out of the dome.

Banda said she ingests the cannabis to help her cope with Crohn’s disease and without it would be unable to function and would be bedridden, according to the affidavit.

A judge granted a search warrant for Banda’s home in Garden City the same day of the interviews. During the search, according to the affidavit, officers collected a little over a pound of marijuana, multiple smoking pipes, three vaporizers that were actively manufacturing cannabis oil and multiple other items related to weed packaging and use.

The items were within easy reach of the boy and most were on the kitchen counter, kitchen table and basement common area, according to the arrest affidavit. Those items tested positive for THC and were sent to the Kansas Bureau of Investigation for further testing, according to the document.

The Eagle obtained the affidavit through an open records request. About one page of the application for the search warrant was redacted.

After the search, Banda’s son was taken into protective custody and released to his father, Manuel Banda, who also lives in Garden City. At some point, Manuel Banda returned the boy to his mother. It’s unclear who currently has custody of him.

Banda turned herself in to the Finney County jail on June 15, bailed herself out that same day and first appeared in court June 16. She is set for a second appearance Aug. 24, when a preliminary hearing date would likely be set.

Marijuana advocacy groups have called her case an example of “the nation’s flawed policy on medical marijuana.”

A campaign for Banda’s case on GoFundMe , a crowdfunding site, showed donations for her case rose to nearly $49,000 as of Wednesday evening. A Care2 petition against the Finney County district attorney and the Department for Children and Families boasted 153,102 signatures toward its 160,000 goal urging the state to reinstate Banda’s custody over her son.

“This isn't justice,” the site reads. “It's a cruel relic of the nation's failed drug war.”

To reach Gabriella Dunn, call 316-268-6400 or send email to gdunn@wichitaeagle.com. Twitter: @gabriella_dunn.

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