Shona Banda, a Garden City, Kansas, mother who drew national attention after losing custody of her son over her use of cannabis, has pleaded no contest to felony charges in exchange for probation.
Banda, who has Crohn’s disease, has been a vocal advocate of medical marijuana and self-published a book about her use of cannabis oil to treat her condition, an inflammatory bowel disease that can cause severe abdominal pain and other symptoms.
In 2015, after her 11-year-old son spoke up about her use of cannabis at a school anti-drug presentation, Garden City police raided her home and seized marijuana, cannabis oil and drug-related equipment.
The Kansas Department for Children and Families subsequently took custody of her son, saying the home environment was not safe for him, and the Finney County district attorney filed drug-related criminal charges against Banda. The charges carried a maximum punishment of 30 years in prison.
Banda later sued state and local authorities, arguing that because many states have decriminalized marijuana possession, she had a “fundamental right” to medical cannabis. She also asked the court to restore custody of her son and to award her unspecified damages. The court threw out that lawsuit in December 2016.
In an email to Kansas City NPR affiliate KCUR on Friday, Deputy Finney County Attorney William C. Votypka said the state and Banda had finalized a plea agreement in which Banda will plead no contest to possession of drug paraphernalia with intent to manufacture, a felony.
In exchange, Votypka said, his office has agreed to dismiss several other charges and support probation terms that would allow Banda to leave the state.
KCUR was unable to reach Banda. Earlier this week, she told Wichita news station KSN she’s moving to the state of Washington, where medicinal and recreational use of marijuana is legal.
“I feel like I could have won at trial," Banda told KSN. "I’m physically not able to go forward and continue. Prosecution did some high fives because they can consider this a win. But I’m looking at this as a win for myself.”
Banda’s formal sentencing is set for October.
C.J. Janovy is an arts reporter for KCUR 89.3. You can find her on Twitter, @cjjanovy.