Couple fighting for custody of baby after mother used form of medicinal marijuana

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CLEVELAND, Ohio - Hollie Sanford and her husband, Daniel, were thrilled to welcome their daughter into the world on Sept. 26.

However, that happiness was soon shattered when they learned they had immediately lost custody of her.

Sanford says her pregnancy with the baby, who is named Nova, was difficult.

She suffered from extreme, debilitating morning sickness and sciatic nerve pain.

Sanford says doctors tried to prescribe opiates for the pain, but she was concerned about becoming addicted and was worried about the impact it would have on her baby.

At that point, the couple began researching medicinal marijuana in the form of tea.

"We did the research and THC, the psychoactive element, doesn't reach the baby after it's metabolized through my body," Sanford told WJW. "So, it's not like the baby is stoned like people might think."

On Sept. 26, their world changed.

"The case worker came in and said, 'You guys can leave, but you cannot take your daughter," said Daniel Sanford.

Joseph Jacobs, the couple's attorney, says a drug test was wrongfully performed on the baby at the hospital.

He said screenings are common when public assistance or Medicaid is paying the bill, but the Sanfords have private insurance.

"They never even asked us," Sanford said. "They tested my baby's diaper with the meconium stool."

According to WJW, the baby's urine sample was negative but the meconium stool, which is composed of materials from inside the womb, tested positive for a bi-product of marijuana.

Court records showed the baby was "very healthy at birth" and that there was "no evidence the child was exposed to THC or suffered from withdrawal."

Nova was taken away and placed with a family member.

The couple says Magistrate Eleanore Hilow wouldn't listen to them about the tea or even to case workers, who recommended the baby be given to her parents.

Records show Hilow determined that removal was "necessary," saying there was "immediate or threatened physical or emotional harm."

"It's very hard. We're just trying to be optimistic and count our blessings; that's what keeps us going," Sanford said.

Sanford says she does not have a dependency issue and has tested clean of all drugs.


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