TOPEKA, Kan. — A veteran is fighting to regain custody of his children after the state of Kansas placed them in the care of child welfare services due to his use of medical marijuana.
Raymond Schwab, a 40-year-old Gulf War veteran, planned to move to Denver from Topeka nine months ago to get treated for his post-traumatic stress and chronic pain. While preparing for the move, the state of Kansas took five of his six children (the family’s oldest is 19) into custody on suspicion of child endangerment in April. Raymond and his wife, Amelia, have only seen them three times since then.
“They’re basically using my kids as a pawn to take away freedoms I fought for,” Raymond said in a report from the Denver Post. “It’s a horrible position to put me in.”
The Post said that Raymond served two years in the Navy from 1994 to 1996 and later qualified for a 50 percent disability rating. He was a Colorado resident when the state legalized medical marijuana and legally acquired his own permit for use.
Raymond and his family reportedly moved to Kansas in 2013 when he took a job at the VA in Topeka working as a benefits agent for his fellow veterans.
“I loved it. I loved my job,” he said of the position. But after two years, Schwab prepared to transfer to a VA job in Denver. As the parents dealt with the move, they arranged for the kids to stay with Amelia’s mother.
After driving 60 miles away from their Kansas home, he received a call saying that his children were in state custody, and that he and his wife needed to appear in an emergency hearing the next day.
Raymond said in order to get his children, the state is demanding that he provide four months of drug-free urine tests.
“What if I didn’t make it through four months?” he told reporters. He worried his condition might take a turn for the worse without cannabis. He said before he used marijuana, his PTSD and chronic pain drove him to alcohol and drug addiction. He became addicted to pain medication, and eventually turned to heroin use.
Raymond told Guardian reporters that he has been sober since he entered rehab in 2011, and that cannabis is the only medication that helps him.
The state’s investigation last April alleged that the Schwabs emotionally abused their five children. Three months later, the allegations were determined to be unsubstantiated, and dismissed.
Raymond told The Guardian he plans to file a lawsuit against the state of Kansas for violation of his constitutional rights.
“They’re holding my kids hostage and threatening to terminate my rights if I don’t seek cannabis-abuse therapy in a state that’s legal. They’re threatening other people with jail time or losing their kids if they speak out, but I will not submit. I’ll take this to the supreme court if I have to.”