LePage: State should take children from drug-users who won’t enter rehab

Gov. Paul LePage. BDN file photo by Troy Bennett.

Gov. Paul LePage. BDN file photo by Troy Bennett.

Gov. Paul LePage said Wednesday he believes that if welfare recipients with histories of felony drug convictions continue to use drugs and refuse to go to rehab, the state should take their children away.

“They just don’t care for their kids,” he said of the hypothetical parents. “If we’re bending over backward to get them into rehab, and they don’t want to go into rehab, what kind of environment are they giving their children?”

LePage made the comments during an interview on the George Hale Ric Tyler Show on WVOM Tuesday morning. Hale and Tyler broke the news that LePage will begin implementing a 2011 law that will require drug testing for applicants and recipients of Temporary Assistance for Needy Families who have been convicted of drug-related felonies.

Under the proposed rule — which is still subject to public comment and legal review — a TANF applicant or recipient who tests positive would be offered rehabilitation services. If they decline, they would be ineligible for benefits.

Maine’s Child Protection Act doesn’t include parental drug abuse alone in its definition of child abuse and neglect. However, police say that drug abuse is often a contributing factor to the kind of abuse or neglect that can cause the state to intervene and begin a process that can, ultimately, lead to termination of parental rights.

Long story short, parents that smoke weed every day but are otherwise good parents might be breaking the law prohibiting the use of marijuana, but it doesn’t mean they’re abusing or neglecting their kids.

So if LePage wanted to remove children from the homes of drug abusers simply because they use drugs, it may require a change of Maine law.

A few other tidbits from LePage’s interview

LePage also tacked a few other subjects in his interview with Hale and Tyler. Here’s a few of the more interesting ones:

  • Legalization of Marijuana: Given the newfound muscularity of groups advocating for the repeal of Maine’s prohibition on recreational adult marijuana use, LePage was asked to weigh in. He said: “From what I know right today, I would be against it. I just know too many people that no longer are here, that started with marijuana and died with heroin. … I will say this: If marijuana goes to a referendum and it’s passed, then it’s the law of the land. I’ll honor it.”
  • On the upcoming election: Poll after poll shows that LePage and his Democratic opponent in the 2014 gubernatorial election, U.S. Rep. Mike Michaud, are locked in a dead heat, with independent candidate Eliot Cutler trailing far behind. But LePage says he doesn’t believe it. Speaking of himself in the third person, LePage said “The governor does not agree [that it’s a tight race]. … The governor says that he’s either going to be blown out by a landslide or he’s going to win by a landslide. … The Maine people are either going to throw me out or take me in wholeheartedly, but I don’t think this is going to be close.”
  • On domestic violence in the NFL: The governor said he’s going to be boycotting the National Football League because of its soft stance on domestic violence, as made evident by the relatively lenient two-game suspension against Baltimore Ravens running back Ray Rice who allegedly assaulted his former fiance. “When they don’t care about our women and our children, they’re not worth watching,” LePage said. “I am absolutely incensed by [NFL Commissioner Roger] Goodell, and I’m sending him a letter this week.”

Update: This blog post has been updated to clarify that when speaking about the state seizing children from welfare recipient parents, LePage was speaking only about welfare recipients with felony drug convictions.

Mario Moretto

About Mario Moretto

Mario Moretto has been a Maine journalist, in print and online publications, since 2009. He joined the Bangor Daily News in 2012, first as a general assignment reporter in his native Hancock County and, now, in the State House. Mario left the BDN in 2015.