A mother threatened with having her children taken away because her husband has medical marijuana plants believes the Ministry of Child and Family Development has quietly offered her an olive branch by paying the cost of air testing in her home.
Angela Ferguson said Wednesday she spoke with the company that did the testing and was told she didn't have to pay the $1,000 bill because the ministry had.
But the ministry disagrees with that claim.
The dispute began on Nov. 28. Ferguson, whose husband Brad Olson is licensed to use medical marijuana to ease pain from degenerative spinal discs, was threatened by social workers who came to the family home with RCMP on a tip about an illegal grow-op.
RCMP were satisfied when they found out about Olson's licence, but the social workers were not, she said. Olson juices the plants, he does not smoke them.
They ordered the family out until the house could be inspected to ensure it was safe. Olson is a contractor who has built his grow room with separate ventilation and other safeguards.
But the family still had to move out for a week, her husband lost a week's wages and the costs added up. They also had to have the electrical system inspected and the air tested.
The air quality tests showed the house is clean, she said.
Even if the ministry does pick up the $1,000 tab for the air test, the family is still out an additional $3,700 for other costs incurred due to the ministry's insistence.
The family has filed a Human Rights Tribunal complaint.
Ministry communications director Corinna Filion said in an emailed statement that the ministry does not cover the costs of air quality testing.
"That is the responsibility of the homeowners or landlord."
The statement continued:
"As previously stated, our priority is to ensure the safety of children in the home. If social workers are concerned a child is at risk due to safety hazards in a home, they would first require a professional opinion on whether the home was safe before any further action is taken.
"The professional would look to see if there are electrical hazards, mould or any other safety concerns. Based on that opinion and their professional judgment, social workers would then work with the parents to ensure any hazards are rectified and there is no more risk of harm to a child before deeming an environment safe.
"It is the responsibility of the parents to ensure their home is safe and their children are not at risk of harm."
Ferguson said she hasn't heard from anyone with the ministry since Dec. 7.
"They've disappeared," she said.
"We're still out $3,700 in expenses. So there is still no Christmas for my family. I think it's a bit of an olive branch from the ministry, but considering they've been non-communicative with us, it's not that much of an olive branch."
She and her husband plan to start a business called Cannabis Patient Services, helping licensed growers set up safe areas for their plants as well as advocating.
"One of the things I hope comes from this is that card holders will be humanized. That we're human, we have kids, we have jobs, that we're not just trying to get high. And that you can grow safely in a home."
Ferguson said the family is still short on money to make Christmas special for their three kids because of the costs, but they're trying to get back on track.
"At this point, we're just trying to get back to our normal lives," she said.
© Kamloops Daily News