Mother arrested after baby tests positive for marijuana

A Lauderdale County woman was arrested after her newborn baby tested positive for having marijuana in her system, police said Tuesday.

Jennifer Lynn Sopanos, 35, 2115 Lauderdale 11, Florence, is charged with chemical endangerment of a child, authorities said. The charge is a Class C felony and is punishable by a prison sentence of 1-10 years, if convicted.

Sopanos’ baby boy was born March 16 at Eliza Coffee Memorial Hospital and tested positive for tetrahydrocannabional, or THC, the main active chemical in marijuana, according to police. Florence police detective Keith Johnson said Sopanos also tested positive for THC.

After receiving the test results, Johnson said arrest warrants were issued for Sopanos.

Johnson said Sopanos has denied using marijuana during her pregnancy. Instead, she claims the positive test is a result of second-hand marijuana smoke. She admitted, however, that she smoked marijuana in November, which would have been after becoming pregnant, police said.

Investigators said Sopanos claims friends were at her house smoking marijuana while she was pregnant and that she and the baby absorbed the marijuana through second-hand smoke.

A report by the National Organization of Fetal Alcohol Syndrome points out that each year about 500,000 newborns are exposed to drugs prenatally. Of those babies, 17 percent are exposed to marijuana.

“We’re seeing more and more of this kind of situation happening in the state and nationwide,” said Jerry Groce, director of the Franklin County Department of Human Resources. “Mothers have to realize what they do while they are pregnant has an impact on the child she is carrying. If she is using drugs, there is potential for the child to test positive at birth and to have problems later in life.”

Sopanos was taken to the Lauderdale County Detention Center where she was later released on bail of $5,000.

Tom Smith can be reached at 256-740-5757 or tom.smith@TimesDaily.com.

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