Couple trying to get back custody of baby after mom used form of medical marijuana

CLEVELAND, Ohio-- A local mom thought she had made the best decision for her baby while in utero by choosing medicinal marijuana to treat extreme sickness and pain, but now she and her husband have lost custody of the infant.

Hollie Sanford said she was suffering from extreme, debilitating  morning sickness and sciatic nerve pain when she began researching the tea.

She said doctors wanted to prescribe opiates for the pain but she was worried about becoming addicted and worried about the impact on her fetus.

She and her husband, Daniel, decided the tea was a safer and more natural option.

“We did the research and THC, the psychoactive element, doesn’t reach the baby after it’s metabolized through my body,” said Hollie, “So it’s not like the baby is stoned like people might think.”

Their little girl who they named Nova was born healthy and alert September 26, but soon their happiness was shattered.

Attorney Joseph Jacobs, who is representing the Sanfords, said a drug test was wrongfully performed on the baby at Fairview Hospital.

He said the screenings are run when public assistance or Medicaid is paying for the hospital services but the hardworking Sanfords are not on public assistance and have private insurance.

“They never even asked us,” said Hollie, “They tested my baby’s diaper with the meconium stool.”

A 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.

Cuyahoga County Children and Family Services got involved immediately, despite court records documenting a “normal delivery” and that the baby was “very healthy at birth.”  In addition to that, records show there was "no evidence the child was exposed to THC or suffered from withdrawal.”

Daniel Sanford said none of that seemed to matter at the hospital. “The case worker came in and said 'you guys can leave, but you can not take your daughter.'"

The couple was able to get Nova placed with a family member with the help of their attorney as they continue to fight the custody battle in Cuyahoga County Juvenile Court.

They said Magistrate Eleanore Hilow wouldn’t listen to evidence involving the tea or to case workers who recommended the baby stay with her parents.

Court records show Hilow determined “removal necessary," citing “immediate or threatened physical or emotional harm.”

Attorney Jacobs filed an immediate appeal requesting an immediate/ emergency custody hearing to return Nova to her parents.

He said even CCDCFS workers testified that it would be more harmful than good to take the infant away from her parents.

Fox 8 reached out to the courts about the case but have not received a comment.

A hearing date isn’t scheduled until December.

In the meantime, Hollie and Daniel said they are visiting Nova every day, trying to build and maintain a  nurturing parental bond.

“It’s very hard. We’re just trying to be optimistic and count our blessings; that's what keeps us going,” said Hollie. “I do not have a dependency issue. I am not addicted to marijuana as has been clearly shown with my clean drug tests.”