LANSING, Mich. - Baby Bree is back home.
In a case that galvanized Michigan supporters of medical marijuana, custody of an infant seized by Child Protective Services workers last month was awarded to the child's parents Friday in a Lansing courtroom.
"I'm ecstatic," said Bree's mother, Maria Green, standing outside the courtroom with a dozen medical marijuana activists wearing green ribbons.
"Bree will be in her own bed tonight. We're going to hug her and read to her and love her," said Maria's husband, Steve Green.
On Sept. 13, Steve and Maria Green, each a state-approved marijuana user, stood in their Lansing home in shock as employees from the county's Child Protective Services unit said the Greens might be exposing their infant daughter Bree to marijuana. As police looked on outside the Greens' two-story gray house, Bree was taken from her mother's arms and driven away.
That action triggered an outcry of "Free Baby Bree" - on websites and the Greens' Facebook page, at rallies and fund-raisers, on the weekly web-streamed Planet Green Trees Radio and outside the Ingham County courthouse.
Four attorneys volunteered their time. And leaders of the medical-marijuana community declared the case would make or break future investigations involving medical marijuana by child protective units across the state.
"The idea that medical marijuana patients can't be good parents is just drug-war hysteria," said Charmie Gholson, 49, of Ann Arbor. But the Greens aren't the first to suffer the loss of a child, Gholson said.
"This has been going on almost since the law passed," she said. Gholson is founder of Michigan Moms United, what she calls "a campaign to re-educate the public and legislators about how the failed drug war destroys families."
Steve Green, 34, is a former auto mechanic who suffers from severe epileptic seizures that no medicine would relieve until he tried marijuana, he said. Maria Green, 31, is a former preschool teacher who has multiple sclerosis and operates a home-based business, selling her own nutrition supplements, "that keeps a roof over our heads," she said. Both are state-approved medical-marijuana users, as their attorneys showed in court.
At their previous home in Auburn Hills, the couple was charged with manufacturing marijuana - a four-year felony - because Oakland County authorities found them growing marijuana. Friday's court order allows them to resume growing the plants, Covert said.
"I was there and I have to tell you - that was hard to watch," Joshua Covert, the couple's key attorney, said about Bree being taken away. But Friday's decision had him smiling.
"We said we're going to let the parents medicate (with marijuana) but not around the children, just what they've been doing all along, and allow some type of regular testing of the baby, maybe a mouth swab," to prove that Bree was not being exposed, Covert said.
The Greens had been scheduled for a jury trial Monday, but this week their luck turned. Ingham County Probate Judge Richard Garcia, at an evidentiary hearing Wednesday, voiced doubts about the actions of social workers and their allegations on a Child Protective Services petition. That led Garcia to call for a special hearing Friday. That's when the couple heard the words they longed to hear - that Baby Bree would come back to her mother and father.
"We've been hoping and praying for this, and we were joking about the return policy," Maria Green said. The infant has been living with her parents near Port Hurton, under a temporary custody arrangement.
The Ingham County assistant prosecutor who represented Child Protective Services at Friday's hearing declined to comment.
Ingham County Prosecutor Stuart Dunnings III said Tuesday that he could not comment directly about Bree Green's parents' fitness to raise her.
"But I would hope that any parents who have the need to use prescription medication would do so in a manner that does not expose their child to harm," Dunnings said.
In Michigan's see-saw battle over the legitimacy of medical marijuana, the Greens have become heroes to those who support full legalization of the drug.
But for those at the other end of the spectrum, medical marijuana activity in Michigan has become a cover for drug dealing.
"I've seen it first-hand," said Roseville Police Chief James Berlin, who spent most of his career in narcotics enforcement.
"I'm sure there's legitimate patients, but we spend a lot of time and effort investigating guys who have their (state registry) card and they're raising plants and selling the drug to anyone who'll buy from them," Berlin said.