Outrage about Pot-Smoking Toddler Video

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As the saying goes, there’s always two sides to every story. The video, which purportedly shows a 22-month-old smoking from his mother’s bong, is one side. The reaction has been strong outrage as the cell phone footage is posted and reposted in multiple Internet stories. But there’s another side to the story as well.

Last week, 24-year-old Rachelle Braaten of Centralia, Washington, was arrested for the incident. She faces charges of providing a controlled substance to a minor, her son, who’s pixilated image appears in the short clip.

Police also added charges of manufacturing because marijuana plants were found growing in the house. Her fiancé, the child’s father, was also arrested but was subsequently released on bond. Both of Rachelle’s children were removed from the home. (She has a 5-year-old daughter as well.)

It all seems clear – a drug addled mother endangering her son. The other side of the story comes from respondents to the video itself.

Comments about the video point out the bong isn’t lit and isn’t “charged.” That is, there is no smoke and no coal in the lower part of the water pipe where the marijuana is lit. In other words, it doesn’t appear the child actually smoked the pipe but merely mimicked the action.

Contrast this with a video posted on Youtube a couple of years ago. That clip, released by an Ohio prosecutor’s office, clearly shows a 2-year-old inhaling from a joint multiple times and with both encouragement and instruction from an off-screen voice said to be her mother. Shameful.

Washington state citizens voted to legalize marijuana for adult use last election, and the state is still working out just how cannabis will be regulated there. Those opposed to the new law point to instances like last week’s clip as a kind of “I told you so” to show how cavalier users can be. Advocates, on the other hand, claim such things are rare and laws about child abuse already exist to handle them.

What remains to be seen is whether, whatever actually happened, Braaten should have her children removed and be jailed over it. The best outcome will keep her and her kids from becoming symbols in a larger fight and the case will be judged on the merits alone.

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