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Children and parents can be victims in war on drugs

"Most of the evil in this world is done by people with good intentions." That's a quote attributed to poet T.S. Eliot. Whether there is any truth to the observation is something readers must determine for themselves. But it's hard to deny that there aren't times when it seems valid.

Some in Mississippi might argue that it can be seen once in awhile in matters related to determinations of child custody. The child's best interest is the tenet which is supposed to guide decisions on what action to take. Because that is subject to individual interpretation, however, it's hard to know the outcome of any given case.

Drug use by parents often surfaces as an issue that can have a negative impact on custody. We wrote about one such case last year. The use of legal medical marijuana became the point of the struggle for a Michigan mother trying to regain more than limited visitation rights with her son.

And just a few weeks ago, Pro Publica offered up the case of a woman a little closer to home that serves as an echo. In this instance, prosecutors in an Alabama county decided to prosecute a mother with exposing her child to a controlled substance while it was in the womb. That's a felony in Alabama and can result in a 10-year sentence.

Eventually, the state dropped the case but the details have prompted many to wonder why charges were pursued in the first place.

According to the story, the mother had been having a tough pregnancy. She also had had an emotional confrontation with her ex-husband. Anxious, she took two half-tablet doses of Valium -- apparently over the course of a couple of days. Occasional small doses are considered safe during pregnancy.

Several weeks later, in August 2014, the baby was born. The hospital reported that there were traces of the Valium in the mother's blood. But the baby was clean. Child welfare officials determined there was no cause for concern, but several weeks later prosecutors decided to press criminal abuse charges using the state's harsh chemical endangerment law.

It was only this past summer that the mother finally obtained a letter from the District Attorney's Office declaring the case dead and got the Sheriff's Office to remove her mug shot from its website. Erasing the social stigma could take longer.

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