A change in Florida’s constitution in relation to the recent passage of the Amendment 2 is seen to have life-impacting effects as more people have recently gained legal access to higher strengths of medical marijuana.
Medical marijuana has been found to be a very helpful antidote to many ailments such as multiple sclerosis, chronic seizures, HIV, serious digestive problems, chronic pain, cancer, and neurological disorders; and at least 200 Florida-based doctors are qualified to make a prescription to patients who need them. Even if the regulations and zoning issues are yet to be settled, marijuana dispensaries and growers are already receiving numerous inquiries daily and business is looking really good. From the home scenario however, it is quite a different story.
Medical Marijuana and Parenting
At first glance, medicating with marijuana and good parenting cannot seem to go together. Even child protection agencies have serious doubts about parental fitness when marijuana is present in the home despite the medical grounds. Real cases about patients whose children get temporarily or permanently removed for protective custody appear side by side with the legal battles involving medical marijuana. The distinction between the benefits of medical marijuana use and illegal use of marijuana is not yet crystal clear for police, judges, and Child Protective Services (CPS), leaving children to foster care instead of their biological parents.
The reason for such a pessimistic point of view and defensive action is considered valid because the Drug Enforcement Administration itself classifies and considers marijuana as a substance that has no accepted medical use in the U.S. and has a high abuse potential. It doesn’t matter what kind of substance, whether it be heroin, marijuana, or ecstasy because they all look the same for CPS in that they can pose dangers or potential harm to a child and increase the possibility of neglect or abuse.
Unless proven otherwise, the use of marijuana, medicinal or not, will always be looked upon negatively and cause parent patients to be separated from their children in consideration of their own protection. Legalizing the use of higher-strength marijuana can adversely affect parenting as anyone identified as a patient using their ID cards or licenses is a candidate for the removal of their children from their custody.
Can a parent using marijuana for medicinal purposes be trusted? There are yet to be substantial studies conducted to help determine the effects of medical marijuana on parenting. Some early literature suggest a slight increase in child poisoning cases in states where parents can use it legally and medically. A link has also been associated between the use of medical marijuana to increased physical abuse, but not neglect. Bridget Freisthler, associate professor at UCLA contends that in her studies of medical cannabis’ use among parents, there is no solid evidence that can accurately determine whether the substance does affect parenting.
However, there are cases in which newborn babies have tested positive for marijuana or mothers who breastfed while using medical marijuana. In both cases, children have been removed from their homes. Meanwhile, co-founder Sara Arnold of the Family Law and Cannabis Alliance believes that the use of marijuana does not automatically make anyone an unsuitable parent and that this should not be the sole basis for taking children away or not. Medicinal marijuana is a risk factor but it does not automatically mean that a parent cannot be trusted to provide safety and protection for their own kids.
From a Parent’s Perspective
While it is easy to understand that it is only for the child’s own protection that he or she has to be removed from a parent’s care, most, if not all, parents would disagree to this contention no matter what.
In some homes, one or both parents rely on medicinal cannabis for their daily functioning and like any other parent or couple, they work hard to make their children healthy and nurtured. Knowing the dangers of unsupervised use, they assert that they deprive children access to their medicine.
Despite all of this, a couple in California, who were both using medical marijuana for chronic medical reasons had their child taken into foster care and were ordered to avoid using it. The mother had to endure a lot of physical pain while the father suffered almost a dozen seizures during this time. It is unfortunate how parents are made to choose between their medicine and their children when it is the medical cannabis that is what’s helping them take care of their family in the first place.
Now that the medical use of higher-strength marijuana has been legalized, parents have to watch out for unexpected restrictions. Typically, judges can order a parent-user or patient to consume it only when they are not parenting or before the time the child is going to be returned to their care. While this can be considered an infringement on their right for medical relief, time-sharing may be the only option.
If you are concerned about the use of medical marijuana in a co-parent’s home, or are involved in a child custody dispute that involved the use of medical marijuana, Seff & Capizzi Law Group is prepared to analyze your case and help you through the process. We regularly assist clients with their child custody cases and can provide valuable information for those that need assistance in understanding how to approach this situation in their own lives.
If you need assistance with your divorce or in your co-parenting arrangement that involves the use of medical marijuana, please call us at (954) 920-9220. We have over 40 years of experience and offer a free consultation. Click here for more information about our family law practice and how Seff & Capizzi can help.