Marijuana Activist Banda Still Plans To File Civil Rights Suit

Feb 12, 2016

Shona Banda in June, after she was booked into jail and released when she posted bond. The Garden City, Kansas, resident, who uses cannabis oil to treat her Crohn's disease, faces criminal charges related to her marijuana use.
Credit James Dobson / Garden City Telegram

A Garden City mother facing criminal drug charges said this week that she still intends to file a lawsuit in federal court asserting a constitutional right to use marijuana to treat her Crohn’s disease.

Attorneys for Shona Banda prepared the suit months ago and posted a draft version online.

Lawrence attorney Sarah Swain teamed up with Long Beach, California, lawyer Matthew Pappas on the suit and Banda said the delay in getting it filed is largely due to logistics.

“I guess they’re trying to find out exactly how to go about it,” Banda said in a recent phone interview. “They have to be in the same building at the same time and they both have such hectic schedules.”

Law enforcement officers searched Banda’s house and found marijuana and a device for turning it into oil after her son spoke up about her use of it during an anti-drug presentation at his school last year.

Banda’s son was removed from her custody and she has a pending court date in Finney County on the criminal charges resulting from the search. Banda was already a prominent voice in the medical marijuana community when she was charged, having posted online and written a self-published book about how she created her own oil derived from marijuana to treat the symptoms of Crohn’s, a painful bowel ailment.

The suit prepared by Swain and Pappas names Gov. Sam Brownback, Department for Children and Families Secretary Phyllis Gilmore and Banda’s local police and school officials as defendants.

Banda said she “absolutely” still intends for the lawsuit to be filed.

“They need to be held accountable,” she said. “Otherwise it’s going to continue to keep happening to some people.”

Swain and Pappas did not respond to requests for comment.

When news reports first surfaced about the draft lawsuit in September, Swain posted a link to a Garden City Telegram story written by Heartland Health Monitor partner KHI News Service on her law office’s Facebook page.

“This lawsuit can and will change the course of history,” Swain posted above the link. “The time to end prohibition is now.”

Broad bills legalizing marijuana for treating a wide range of illnesses have been introduced in the Kansas Legislature several times in the past five years but have gone nowhere.

A narrow bill that would legalize low-THC marijuana oil for use in treating seizure disorders only passed the House last year, but has stalled this year after one Senate committee hearing.

Banda said she doesn’t support the oil-only bill because it’s far too restrictive and called it “the biggest farce ever.”

Hearings in Banda’s criminal case are scheduled for late July. The judge has ruled she will be allowed to submit evidence of marijuana’s medicinal benefits.

Banda said she’s aware using marijuana to treat her condition is illegal, but not using it is worse than any legal consequences.

“I don’t want to get sick again,” Banda said. “I’m not afraid of prison. I’m afraid of my own personal hell and I never, ever will go back.”

Andy Marso is a reporter for KHI News Service in Topeka, a partner in the Heartland Health Monitor team. You can reach him on Twitter @andymarso