Medical marijuana and child custody: interesting legal terrain

On behalf of Stange Law Firm, PC posted in Child Custody on Wednesday, May 7, 2014.

Illinois is a recent addition to the list of American states that have legalized the use of medical marijuana within their borders, subject to varying restrictions.

The list is relatively limited, but growing. Medicinal pot is now legal in 21 states and the District of Columbia, with legislative schemes promoting its legalization being at various stages of debate in a number of additional states.

Illinois joined the now-legal crowd last year.

Here’s a question: Notwithstanding its legality, should a parent’s use of marijuana as prescribed by a doctor for a legitimate medical reason be a factor that a judge considers in a child custody matter?

Some people might reasonably think not. After all, a person with a medical card and legal right to use pot for a specified medical reason — and only after being vetted by a medical professional — is not breaking any laws.

On the flip side of that argument, though, some individuals might counter that mere legality doesn’t make drug use safe or appropriate for a parent who is caring for a child.

A recent media article examines this very issue, noting that legal pot use will likely become an increasingly contested topic in family courts “as it develops and marijuana becomes more mainstream.”

What seems unquestioned is that, legal or not, pot use will be considered by any judge who wants to look into it. Judges in Illinois and across the country overseeing family law matters generally have plenary discretion to do so, and a court might find a parent to be unfit even if that parent’s marijuana use is prescribed and somewhat limited.

Each situation is unique, and a number of factors might be considered by a court.

An Illinois family law attorney with deep experience in child custody issues can answer questions and discuss parental fitness with any person wishing to discuss the matter.

Source: Las Vegas Sun, “Family law attorney warns high times might lead to loss of custody,” Ana Ley, April 23, 2014

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