By now you’ve probably seen on your local news this headline that has sped around the world: Mom Charged After Tot Walks Into Road With Pot. It’s a fascinating look at how the “What About the Children?!?” opposition to marijuana legalization is such a strong meme.
The first record I see of the story comes from the Times Herald-Record in New York’s Hudson Valley at 2:00am Eastern Time this morning. By 11:00am it is picked up by the Wall Street Journal and other New York news affiliates. By 2:00pm Eastern, it is picked up in at least 157 news reports in places as far away as El Paso, San Diego, and Kansas City.
Here’s the story:
LOCH SHELDRAKE, N.Y. — Authorities have charged a 30-year-old New York woman with endangering the welfare of a child after police say her toddler wandered into an upstate road clutching a bag of marijuana.
Police in the Sullivan County hamlet of Loch Sheldrake say Lakeisha Owens was sleeping in her apartment around 5 p.m. Saturday when her 3-year-old daughter was nearly struck by a motorist on Route 52.
Officials say the motorist pulled over, removed the child from the road and called police. Authorities say the child was holding a bag containing 15 grams of marijuana.
It’s awful that a mother takes a nap and her toddler wanders away and into the road, but this happens to mothers more often than you’d think. I was one of those toddlers who was legendary for wandering away from my parents to go exploring. Accidents happen and this incident alone doesn’t make the mother in this story a bad or neglectful parent.
Now, if this were just a toddler-wanders-into-road story, it would just be local Hudson Valley news. It’s the bag of weed that spreads the story across the country, the implication being that here’s a no-good slacker stoner mom who can’t take care of her kids. Certainly, leaving the half-ounce bag within reach of the child while you’re napping isn’t the most responsible act. But we are talking about a toddler; it’s not as if there’s any danger of the kid whipping out some Zig Zags and twisting up a spliff. The danger to the kid was in wandering unsupervised on the road. The kid could have been carrying a bag of potato chips and it would have been just as germane to the story.
The mothers that will never get any headlines are the millions who are raising their kids well, putting them to bed at night, then retiring to the porch to unwind with a book and a joint. They will continue to keep their pot smoking secret, lest they be compared to Lakeisha Owens. Women in general will continue to support marijuana legalization at rates much lower than men for fear that it will harm their children. That’s how powerful “What About the Children?!?” is.