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How Does Marijuana Usage Affect Custody Battles?

A man smoking marijuana

If you are a marijuana user or the other parent of your children is a marijuana user, it is a common question to know how this will affect your divorce or custody battle. While we often hear about legalization of marijuana, this is obviously only under specific circumstances. Many states have discussed whether to legalize marijuana over the past few years. While some people believe that marijuana use should be legal on federal and state levels, it is still illegal in some states. While about 75% of states have some form of legal medical marijuana use, it is still important that the implications of its use be carefully considered.

Marijuana, also known as cannabis, contains mind-altering substances including the chemical THC compound. In recent times, the ways that people consume marijuana has varied greatly, and may include smoking it, eating it (such as through candies, gummies, brownies or cookies), mixing it with foods, breathing it as a vapor, brewing it or drinking it. While the effects of cannabis may vary from person to person based on how much of the drug is consumed and in what manner, some people experience pleasant relaxation and destressing while other people experience anxiety, increased restlessness and fear.

Over the past decade, the percentage of people who believe marijuana should be legalized has changed from about 50% (ten years ago) to now about 70% or more of the United States population favors legalization. Many of the people supporting legalization would look to scientific reports and studies indicating that marijuana has medical benefits. Some of the medical benefits include people with chronic, severe or terminal illnesses may find relief from marijuana in easing their nausceousness or increasing or improving their appetite. Many patients with cancer, epilepsy or ongoing nerve pain have found relief with marijuana and/or THC that they have not been able to find any other effective medications.

It is important to know, however, that even if you have a medical marijuana card, there are still strict criteria that you must follow in terms of where and how you keep your marijuana, the limitation of the amount, among other requirements. Also important to consider is with any legal prescription drug (such as pain pills), if taking them effects your ability to safely parent, you need to either have another adult available to care for your children or concede that you are not capable of caring for your children when under the influence of a mind-altering substance.

As with alcohol, prescription medications or any other similar substance, it can be an issue in child custody cases. The judge is tasked with determining the best interests of your child or children. In some cases, however, significant use of marijuana can be indicative to the court that one parent cannot fully and adequately serve as a primary or significant parent for the children. This is particularly the case if marijuana use has negatively affected the children in some way. This can include (but of course, is not limited to) situations where the children have smelled or breathed the substance (in the same way that we do not want children to breathe second hand cigarette smoke), if children become aware of the marijuana use (for example, if you have a grower’s license but have people frequently coming and going to your home at all hours of the day or night to pick-up their marijuana and thus, the children become aware that a parent is a drug dealer or seller), or in situations where older/teenaged children have access to a parent’s marijuana supply and take or try some of it. In all of these situations, the court will likely determine that the parent using or possessing the marijuana is not acting in the best interests of the child or children.

Further consideration for the court may include if a parent is using marijuana regularly or routinely, he or she may have impairment in terms of their ability to drive, care for the children, including remembering to administer medications or do other things to meet the child’s special needs, or may have impaired motor skills, mental functioning or even mood. If a parent is going to protect the children by making sure they do not have access to the marijuana or supplies, the parent ensures that the use does not alter or effect the parent’s ability to care for the child, and can ensure that it has no effect on the parent-child relationship, the court may be less concerned about the marijuana use.

If you use marijuana or if you know or suspect your spouse, former spouse or co-parent is using marijuana and you need to discuss how this may affect your child custody case, please call Pingel Family Law today to schedule your consultation at (816) 208-8130. Put our knowledge and experience to work for your family when difficult and complicated issues are present.

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