Discriminatory Judge with Bias Against Marijuana Orders the Owner of a Marijuana Social Media Mobile App to Have His Children Removed from Their Home and Turned Over to Mother with Documented Substance Abuse Issues and a Questionable Living Environment.
Salem, Massachusetts – Probate and Family Court Justice Peter Digangi has ruled that the two young children of Social High CEO Scott Bettano – daughter Dasanii (age 5) and son Manii (age 6) – be abruptly removed from their stable home on the basis of his position operating a social media mobile app developed for the cannabis community.
Mr. Bettano’s primary business venture, Social High, is a social media platform that allows people to communicate and share experiences with like-minded individuals in a safe ecosystem while exercising their First Amendment rights. In an inexplicable turn of events last week before abruptly retiring from the bench, Judge Digangi revoked Mr. Bettano’s custodial rights (which he initially saw fit to grant Mr. Bettano in September 2014) and has instead ordered custody transferred to the children’s mother, Lauren Belanger.
Unfortunately, similar bias has been widespread, most notably in the case of two year-old Alex Hill. For those unfamiliar with the Alex Hill case, she was a little girl removed from her parents home because they were marijuana users (her mother suffered from seizures and her father indulged occasionally).
Child protective services (CPS) saw fit to remove the child from the custody of her parents despite the Alex appearing healthy and happy. Not long after she was placed into the Texas foster care system, Alex’s parents raised concerns about the safety of their child after noticing bruising and signs of abuse. Shortly thereafter, Alex was hospitalized after suffering a massive head trauma and was later pulled off life support. Alex’s foster mother has since been convicted and sentenced to life in prison without parole.
Judge Digangi’s decision goes directly against the better judgement of Laura Craig-Bray, Ph.D., the Child Protective Services (CPS) specialist appointed to facilitate Ms. Belanger’s reunification with her children. Dr. Craig-Bray was appointed following a full year and a half, during which visitation was not sought and the children were under Mr. Bettano’s sole care.
Due to concerns observed with Ms. Belanger’s behavior, Dr. Craig-Bray’s recommendation was that only supervised visits with their mother should be granted:
In spite of Dr. Craig-Bray’s report, Judge Digangi has concluded the appropriate course of action to be uprooting Mr. Bettano’s children from their schools and home and moving them two hours away from the stability of an environment they have known since 2014. They will reside in a house that is owned by Ms. Belanger’s fiancée (an unrelated man with a felony conviction for possession and distribution of cocaine with whom the children have no current relationship).
“My children are being taken from a loving and stable environment and being thrust into one where a CPS supervisor has concerns about my children’s mother, on top of that her fiancee, who has never been supervised was just released from prison in the summer of 2015 after serving four (4) years for trafficking in cocaine,” stated Mr. Bettano. “How can a judicial system meant to safeguard my children and others do their job if they completely disregard the information their appointed supervisors [Dr. Craig-Bray] provided them with because of some inherent bias against what I do for a living?”
Throughout the trial, Judge Digangi expressed concern over Mr. Bettano’s activism in the cannabis reform community and his work towards normalizing and regulating marijuana. The main focus of this trial should be the children, not bias or political posturing against cannabis. The timing of Judge Digangi’s ruling came in the days immediately following the successful Boston Freedom Rally, where Social High was a major sponsor advocating for the passage of Question 4 this November that would legalize cannabis for adults over 21 in the Commonwealth.
It is of grave concern when families are torn apart because of an individual’s intolerance with the growing acceptance of cannabis in our society. This case cuts to the core of major issues faced by parents who choose to support cannabis reform and an end to the disastrous policies of cannabis prohibition that have decimated families for decades.
“It is unacceptable to think that we are still dealing with these archaic decisions by Justices who choose to use their power to separate children from their loving father because of his choice to operate a small tech startup focused on social media for cannabis consumers,” said Mickey Martin, Director of Parents 4 Pot, a 501c3 supporting parents who are discriminated against for cannabis.” We are hopeful that Justice Digangi will do the right thing and allow Scott to continue to provide Manii and Dasanii with an amazing home and caring environment to grow and thrive.”