WANGANUI, NEW ZEALAND — A woman has been convicted of giving cannabis to her 3-month old baby through her breast milk, in what is believed to be the first case of its kind in New Zealand – or anywhere.
The 29-year-old woman from the from the North Island town of Wanganui was charged with administering cannabis, a class C controlled drug, to a person under the age of 18.
She pleaded guilty and was sentenced in Wanganui District Court last week to six months’ supervised probation.
Police, who arrested the woman following a search of her house for drugs, said her actions amounted to child abuse.
“People often believe drug-related activities are victimless, but it affects the people around them,” claimed Sgt. Andrew McDonald. “We need to take the children’s needs into consideration.”
University of Auckland law Professor Warren Brookbanks said the case was almost certainly the only one of its kind in New Zealand, and quite possibly the world.
Had she not pleaded guilty to the charges, Proffessor Brookbanks believes the case would not have resulted in a conviction, as it would be very difficult for the prosecution to prove that the woman had deliberately administered cannabis to her baby through her breast milk.
“It would be necessary for the prosecution to prove that the mother both knew she had cannabis in her system, and that she intended to administer it to the baby,” said Brookbanks. “In the absence of both of those mental elements, it would be impossible to prove a relevant administration of the drug.”
He said a person could not be convicted of administering a drug where they did not know they had consumed cannabis or did not know that cannabis in the system could be passed on to a dependent child through breast milk.
Police said the woman did not face any other charges, however, her partner faced other charges relating to the drug raid.
The woman’s name has not been released.