TOPEKA, Kan. — A Navy veteran seeking to get five of his children back from state custody in Kansas says his use of medical marijuana to treat PTSD — not the family's past scrapes with the law — prompted the state's action.
Raymond Schwab, 40, said the Kansas Department of Children and Families took the children in April 2015, which he calls "illegally kidnapping" them, after his wife's mother told police they had been abandoned. It happened as he was preparing to move the family to Colorado, where medical marijuana is legal.
Schwab has recently campaigned on the Statehouse steps to get his children back, and drawn national attention as medical marijuana proponents describe the case as an example of government overreach against a disabled vet who used cannabis to treat mental and physical conditions.
While the Department of Families and Children has declined to specify exactly why officials took custody of the children, ages 5, 7, 11, 13 and 16, it said last week Schwab is not being truthful in his contention that it was because of medical marijuana. Officials have declined to comment beyond that statement.
In the five months before the children were removed from the home, Schwab's wife, Amelia Schwab, was arrested for domestic battery after assaulting her husband at a strip club, police were called to the family's home for a domestic disturbance, and Amelia Schwab was hospitalized for mental health issues, according to Topeka police reports and Shawnee County court documents obtained by The Associated Press.
"None of those things were in the state's allegation," Schwab said, but added that marijuana was. He said the state ordered him not to use cannabis for four months if he wants the children back. He said he is complying, though it was not clear when that period began.
Schwab also said he had been on a 15-day hunger strike, which he ended Wednesday after a California attorney specializing in medical marijuana issues came to Topeka with plans to file a federal lawsuit against the state, DCF and several government officials. It had not been filed by the close of business Wednesday.
The lawyer, Matthew Pappas, and Cheryl Shuman, a California resident whose website describes her as a "cannabis branding personality," were among about 40 people at a rally for Schwab and his wife Wednesday. Schwab said he plans to continue the Statehouse vigil he began on March 14 and has permission from the state to stay for 30 days, with the possibility of applying for more time.
Pappas said he was certain that the family's other problems, "if they played a role in what's going on in court, would be in the transcript, but they're not."
Schwab said he was honorably discharged from the Navy after serving 18 months between 1994 and 1996, during which time an incident he said he didn't want to discuss occurred that led to PTSD. Suffering from chronic joint and back issues, he said he became addicted to pain medications and then to heroin in 2009.
He got treatment in 2011 and was able to kick the heroin addiction with the use of cannabis, he said. In 2013 he moved to Topeka from Colorado to take a job with the Veterans Administration, he said.
Legal issues involving the family, however, were numerous.
In November 2014, Amelia Schwab assaulted Raymond Schwab at a strip club near their home. She pleaded guilty to domestic battery last May. Raymond Schwab said he had started drinking because of marital problems and the strip club was close to his house.
Police were called to the home in January 2015 for a domestic disturbance. On April 2 of that year, Amelia Schwab was hospitalized for mental health issues. State officials removed the children from the home on April 27 after Amelia Schwab's mother took them to Riley County and told police they had been abandoned, Schwab said.
About a month later, Schwab was accused of trying to break into an apartment above the strip club where an employee lived. He was charged with criminal trespass and criminal battery — charges police said led to his arrest at the Statehouse last week on an outstanding warrant.
Schwab, who is scheduled for court in May, said Wednesday he didn't remember anything about that case.
Draper reported from Kansas City, Missouri.