Legal Marijuana and Custody

On behalf of Ronald H. Kauffman, P.A. posted in Child Custody on Monday, August 4, 2014.

A man lost child custody after getting a medical marijuana card. A couple has their child taken for growing medical marijuana. Police visit a home after a 9-year-old tells his teacher about his mother’s hemp advocacy.

As the News Journal, Delaware online, reports these cases were eventually decided in favor of the parents, but the incidents show a growing dilemma: possession of legalized marijuana in a state can become evidence in child custody or child abuse case.

I’ve written about this problem before. No data exist to show how often marijuana use comes up in custody disputes, or how often child welfare workers intervene in homes where marijuana is used.

But in dozens of interviews, the consensus is clear: marijuana’s growing acceptance is complicating the task of determining when kids are in danger.

Colorado considers marijuana use legal, but it is still listed as a Schedule I controlled substance, like heroin, under federal law. As a result, when it comes to defining a drug-endangered child, marijuana can’t legally be in a home where children reside.

Colorado lawmakers abandoned the effort to address this problem as too complicated. Among the teary-eyed moms at the hearing was Moriah Barnhart, who moved to the Denver area from Tampa in search of a cannabis-based treatment for a daughter with brain cancer.

“We moved here across the country so we wouldn’t be criminals. But all it takes is one neighbor not approving of what we’re doing, one police officer who doesn’t understand, and the law says I’m a child abuser,” Barnhart said.

“There are people who are very reckless with what they’re doing, leaving marijuana brownies on the coffee table or doing hash oil extraction that might blow the place up. Too often with law enforcement, they’re just looking at the legality of the behavior and not how it is affecting the children,” said Jim Gerhardt of the Colorado Drug Investigators Association, which supported the bill.

Colorado courts are wading into the question of when adult marijuana use endangers kids. The state Court of Appeals in 2010 sided with a marijuana-using dad who lost visitation rights though he never used the drug around his daughter.

The court reversed a county court’s decision that the father couldn’t have unsupervised visitation until passing a drug test, saying that a parent’s marijuana use when away from his or her children doesn’t suggest any risk of child harm.

This could hit us soon. The Florida Right to Medical Marijuana Initiative, Amendment 2 is on the November 4, 2014 ballot in the state of Florida as an initiated constitutional amendment.