Medical Marijuana Can Cost Parents in Child Custody Disputes

Fourteen of our fifty states currently approve the use of marijuana for medical purposes in some form. However, because the use of marijuana is still illegal under federal law, its role in child custody disputes has become a subject of great debate in recent years. Although medical marijuana laws can protect patients from criminal charges, they typically do not prevent judges and guardians ad litem from considering a parent’s use of marijuana as a factor in custody decisions.

Most often, the judicial system will side with parents who seek to keep their children away from marijuana. With some other painkiller medications, judges can require tests to establish how much of a drug a patient has in his system at any given time; however, because treatment providers cannot prescribe specific dosages of marijuana without violating federal law, it is currently unclear what constitutes an “appropriate” level of marijuana in a patient’s system.

Medical marijuana activists in several states, including Washington, California, and Colorado, state that they have been getting more inquiries recently from patients involved in custody disputes, as the number of patients using marijuana for medical purposes increases. According to the Marijuana Policy Project, based in Washington, D.C., only two states with medical marijuana laws specify that patients will not lose custody or visitation rights, unless the patient’s use of marijuana endangers the child or is contrary to the child’s best interests.

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