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Medical marijuana may be legal, but could you lose child custody?

New York is on track to become the next state on the bandwagon allowing the regulated use of marijuana for medical reasons. The measure was approved by the legislature just a couple of weeks ago and the governor is reportedly expected to sign the bill into law.

While the advent of New York becoming the 23rd state to approve the use of medical marijuana may be welcome by many, some legal observers report the trend is creating new challenges in the area of family law. There are cases cropping up in some states in which child custody is being challenged because of the presence of pot in one parent’s household.

Readers may have seen a recent article in The Buffalo News about this issue. According to the report, the issue comes down to the fact that child-abuse and endangerment laws aren’t keeping pace with the changes in policy related to marijuana.

The baseline standard by which child custody decisions are supposed to be made is what is in the best interest of the child, but defining “best interest” is a subjective thing. The line may only be blurred in states that have legalized marijuana because federal law still identifies it as a Schedule 1 substance. The presence of such substances in a family home is considered to be a threat to a child.

There is no formal compilation of data to show how often pot use has become an issue in a child custody dispute, but it is happening. In the face of a number of such instances, two Colorado lawmakers attempted to update that state’s law last session to clarify that marijuana must be shown to be harmful to children to constitute abuse. The effort was abandoned, however, because of angry opposition from both marijuana-using parents and opponents of legalization.

Absent any clear legal guidelines the chance of more such challenges being made seems likely. Rather than rely on tips and hints on how to deal with them, the better route is to consult with a skilled attorney.

Source: The Buffalo News, “Changing pot laws prompt child-endangerment review,” The Associated Press, June 15, 2014