Two individuals in Bend, Oregon were arrested last week after a video shared on social media showed them offering a bag of marijuana flower to a baby. In the video posted on Snapchat, the cameraperson pans across the room, revealing a 4-month-old girl playing with and chewing on a plastic bag of marijuana while the adults in the room watch.
After being notified by some who were concerned for the child’s safety after seeing the video, the Deschutes County Sheriff's Office began an investigation. Ethan Burgess, 18, who allegedly posted the video, was arrested along with the girl’s grandmother, Raechel Gilland, 37. The video, which was approximately 30 seconds in length, was recorded at a home on the 60000 block of Navajo Road in Deschutes River Woods. According to Gilland, the girl was given the bag of marijuana because she was teething and there was nothing else to give her in the moment. Authorities were able to find the video online and identify everyone that appeared in it.
It was “determined that Gilland gave her granddaughter the bag of marijuana because the baby was teething and (she) did not have anything else to soothe the baby,” said Sgt. Kent Vander Kamp in a news release.
Both the 4-month-old baby as well as her 2-year-old sibling were brought under the care of Oregon DHS Child Protective Services following the police investigation.
“The Deschutes County Sheriff’s Office encourages adults to keep cannabis, cannabis products and packaging away from children,” Vander Kamp added. “Although Oregon adults can now legally use marijuana, the Oregon Health Authority reports marijuana and its packaging have many chemicals that may negatively affect developing fetuses, babies and young children.”
Due to COVID-19 restrictions placed upon jails in Deschutes County in order to protect inmates and staff, Burgess and Gilland were both cited in lieu of custody on charges of endangering the welfare of a minor.
“A citation in lieu of custody is still an arrest and does not discount the seriousness of the alleged crimes,” said Vander Kamp.
Oregon’s history with recreational marijuana legalization reaches back to November 2012, when the Oregon Cannabis Tax Act qualified for the state ballot and was narrowly defeated by a voting margin of 53%-47%. In 2014, Measure 91 legalized non-medical marijuana cultivation and in 2015, Gov. Kate Brown signed into law an emergency bill legalizing recreational marijuana sales for dispensaries. The following year, Gov. Brown enacted additional legislation allowing dispensaries to sell both medical and recreational marijuana. On January 1, 2017, recreational marijuana sales were made legal for businesses who have obtained official licenses from the Oregon Liquor Control Commission.