How does marijuana use affect child custody?

As a growing number of states legalize marijuana, marijuana use – even medical use – by a parent may be raised as an issue in child custody disputes. While a marijuana user may argue that their use does not impact their ability to properly parent their child, especially no more than one who consumes alcohol, courts will sometimes come to a different conclusion. Ultimately, the implications of marijuana upon child custody is a gray area, as a result of the fact that the drug remains illegal on the federal level and retains social stigma.

The ultimate goal of all courts in child custody cases is to make a determination that is in the best interests of the child. Common best interest factors that courts take into consideration that may raise the issue of marijuana use, are the “moral character” of a parent, or the “catch-all provision” (allowing courts to consider any other factor that they deem relevant when deciding the best interest of the child). Through both of these analyses, one’s marijuana use may be introduced to the court and significantly impact their child custody status. Although there has been shifting public opinion leading to the legalization of marijuana throughout the country, the stigma around marijuana use still very much exists. It is very difficult to break away from the stigma of “Reefer Madness” and “The War on Drugs.” These public attitudes infiltrate the courts and will not change overnight.

If you are a parent who uses cannabis, whether it is in a recreational capacity similar to drinking a glass of wine or if you use it for medicinal reasons, consider these recommendations to protect yourself and your child.

  • Do not leave drug paraphilia out in the open. Make sure your child does not have access.
  • Keep your cannabis products in a secure place. This is especially important if you use “edibles” because a child could easily mistake this for normal candy.
  • Limit your use around your children. Just as you would not want your child around secondhand cigarette smoke, the same is true for marijuana.
  • Know your limits. This is similar to alcohol use because you cannot be an effective parent when you are intoxicated, you cannot be an effective parent when you are too high.

By taking these precautions, you can maintain the safety of your home and limit the possibility that your cannabis use may cause a problem in a child-custody matter.

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