Drug Law

Medical Marijuana Use Not Automatically Child Endangerment, Court Rules

| by Marijuana Policy Project

Even when medical marijuana patients are protected from arrest and provided safe access under their state’s law, they may still face forms of discrimination, as we are unfortunately reminded time and time again.

Perhaps the most tragic and emotionally charged instance is when parents lose custody of their children because a court or judge rules that their marijuana use, even if it’s medicinal, constitutes child endangerment.

Luckily, a ruling last week by the Colorado Court of Appeals may help prevent future instances, at least in that state. In a 2-1 decision, the three-judge court ruled that a parent’s use of medical marijuana does not necessarily lead to child endangerment, and that the impact of a parent’s medical marijuana use on a child should be determined on a case-by-case basis. In this case, a father had agreed to undergo drug screenings as part of the custody plan made with his divorced wife, but then asked a judge to waive that requirement after he received a license to use medical marijuana for knee and back pain resulting from a motorcycle accident.

The court found that the father’s medical marijuana use in no way “represented a threat to the physical and emotional health and safety of the child, or otherwise suggested any risk of harm.”

The ruling was clear, however, that the court was not expressing an opinion on whether medical marijuana use constituted endangerment; “rather, we conclude only that endangerment was not shown here,” the opinion stated. “We also express no view on father’s constitutional right to use medical marijuana.”

In a related development, Noah Kirkman, the 12-year-old Canadian boy who has been in an American foster home since 2008, was ordered back to Canada and into the custody of his grandparents this weekend. As I wrote previously on the blog, his mother, Lisa, had been deprived custody of her son because of her use of and activism for medical marijuana.