ELLSWORTH, Maine — A Sullivan woman whose son was placed in foster care after he took her marijuana-laced brownies to his school and shared them with friends was told in court Friday evening that her son would remain in protective custody for the time being.
Aside from the custody issue, Amanda Hiser, 32, is facing criminal charges in connection with the incident and still has to contend with her lupus, which she says is why she had the pot brownies to begin with. Hiser is not an authorized medical marijuana user in Maine, but a pro-medical marijuana group that has learned of her situation is offering to help arrange and pay for a visit with a doctor who can approve her as a medical marijuana patient.
Hiser, a single mother, had hoped would allow her 13 year-old son, who just started eighth grade at Mountain View School in Sullivan, to return home.
“That’s the main, important thing,” Hiser said Thursday evening. “I would like him home as soon as possible.”
But an Ellsworth District Court Judge ruled on Friday evening, after the usual court closing time, that there would still be an “immediate risk” to returning the boy to his mother’s care, said Hiser’s attorney, Ferdinand Slater.
Friday’s preliminary hearing was private and, citing confidentiality rules, Slater would not divulge details of why the court ruled as it did.
“We’ll be working with the [Department of Health and Human Services] to alleviate their concerns between now and the jeopardy hearing,” Slater said. At that hearing, a judge will decide whether the child will remain in the department’s care. It must be held within 120 days, but has yet to be scheduled, Slater said.
Slater said Hiser has seen her son, and that he is working with DHHS to schedule regular visitation. Hiser could not be reached for comment Friday.
Hiser was arrested Oct. 30 on a charge of aggravated trafficking in scheduled drugs because of the incident earlier that day in which, she says, her son accidentally took the brownies to school as a snack. Her son was placed in foster care the same day by DHHS and has been in foster care since.
Her son and several other students also were suspended from school for the incident.
In addition to the trafficking charge, Hiser has been charged with possession of a hypodermic device — a charge she and police have declined to elaborate on.
Hiser claims that because of her lupus, she suffers from kidney failure, experiences nausea, has joint pain and rheumatoid arthritis, and has to receive regular blood transfusions. She cannot take pharmaceutical painkillers because of her kidney issues and the marijuana helps with her pain and nausea, she has said.
She has said she has had difficulty coming up with the money she needs for an appointment with a doctor who can authorize medical marijuana use. She and her son had been living off $350 a month they received in Temporary Assistance for Needy Families funding but, she said, the money has stopped coming since her son was placed in foster care. She says she has no other income. She says she has applied to Social Security for disability benefits but has yet to be approved.
Patrick Sullivan, a spokesman for pro-medical marijuana group Compassionate Caregivers of Maine, indicated Thursday in an email that the group is helping Hiser get an appointment with a doctor authorized to approve patients for medical marijuana use.
“CCM is also paying for the visit via a patient fund that we have set up in order to try to help low-income patients to afford consultations which can cost anywhere from $150-300 for the initial visit and another $100-200 for follow-up visits which happen at least annually, sometimes more frequently,” Sullivan wrote in the email.
Sullivan added that getting approved for medical marijuana often poses significant financial hurdles for patients who have few, if any, other options.
“A patient that is on state assistance for example, may live on less than $1,000 in monthly income and simply cannot afford $300 in order to see a physician that will look objectively at medical marijuana as part of a treatment plan,” Sullivan wrote. “Even with the sliding scale that some physicians offer, there remains an underserved segment of the patient pool that simply cannot get the help they need.”
Hiser’s son still faces disciplinary action by the school. RSU 24 has scheduled a student expulsion hearing as part of its next regular meeting on Tuesday, Nov. 13, at Ellsworth High School.
In keeping with the RSU’s policy of not disclosing information about individual students, RSU officials have not indicated which student is the subject of the hearing. But Hiser said Thursday that the hearing is for her son and that he could get expelled.
RSU 24 Superintendent Suzanne Lukas has said several students were suspended for varying lengths of time in connection with the Oct. 30 incident. She has declined to say how many students are involved or to say how long the suspensions are for.
Follow BDN reporter Bill Trotter on Twitter at @billtrotter. BDN reporter Mario Moretto contributed to this report.