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Medical marijuana and child custody

In 2000, Nevada became one of the first states to legalize medical marijuana for the treatment of cancer, glaucoma, AIDS, and any medical condition that produces muscle spasms, pain, or severe nausea. To date, 16 states plus the District of Columbia have legalized medical marijuana, and it is likely that most states will follow their lead in the near future.

The increasing legalization of medical marijuana has created tricky situations as state legislatures and courts have found themselves playing catch-up to determine how to deal with legal drug use. In family court, judges must now decide whether a medical marijuana license should affect a child custody determination, or whether a parent on drugs, regardless of the drug’s legality, should disqualify him or her from visitation rights.

A recent custody case from Colorado, where medical marijuana is legall, illustrates the new dilemma of family courts in medical marijuana states. Following a child custody hearing, the family court judge ruled that the father, who admitted to using medical marijuana, could only have parenting time if it was supervised, and if he underwent hair follicle testing. The father appealed the judge’s ruling, and the Colorado Court of Appeals reversed the decision.

The appellate court ruled that the state could not require supervised parenting time based solely on the father’s marijuana use unless the mother supplied a specific finding that the drug use harmed or endangered the health and well-being of the child. If no such finding was made, supervised parenting time was not appropriate.

What do you think? Should parents with medical marijuana licenses have the same custody rights as if they did not use the drug?

Source: The Huffington Post, “Medical Marijuana Lights Up Child Custody Court,” Edra J. Pollin, Sept. 26, 2011

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