Local Hospitals Testing New Moms for Pot & Other Drugs (12/26/12)

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More than a dozen city hospitals have admitted to testing new mothers for drugs and contacting ACS if they are positive for smoking marijuana.

The New York Daily News reported that a several hospitals serving low income and minority women have adopted the practice of mandatory screening for illegal drugs in either mothers and newborns.

Family Court attorneys said they see scores of neglect proceedings each year originating from a positive marijuana test — almost exclusively against low-income and minority women.

Attorneys who fight these cases have begun citing scientific findings that pot use poses less risk to fetuses than cigarettes or alcohol. “They take a urine test and act as if it can predict parenting ability,” said Emma Ketteringham of the Bronx Defenders, “It’s doing more harm than good.”

The shift in legal strategy followed a landmark decision by a Brooklyn judge early this year that included the first-ever expert testimony in this type of case.

Columbia University neuroscientist Carl Hurt has testified marijuana poses less risk to the fetus than alcohol or cigarettes.

"All the scientific research," Hart wrote in a court document, "leads me to conclude that recreational use of marijuana does not undermine responsible parenting."

ACS Commissioner Ronald Richter said his agency is mandated to investigate reported cases and follow the laws against marijuana.

"I'm not going to sit here and say we're always able to meet our burden," said Richter. "That's why we have a court."

In fact, the issue of maternity ward drug tests made its way to the highest court in the land. The Supreme Court ruled in 2001 that taking such tests without consent, when they could lead to a criminal charge, amounts to an unconstitutional search. But the ruling does not cover civil child protection proceedings.

Source: New York Daily News