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Child custody case outcome: Medical marijuana not drug abuse

Parents in Connecticut may be aware of a widely publicized child custody battle that centers on a parent's right to the care and custody of their child while using legally prescribed medical marijuana. The child custody case began when a child protective services department brought an action against a father of a young child. The father's use of medical marijuana was stated as the basis for the claim that he could not adequately parent the boy.

A court ruled that the man's use of marijuana to treat his chronic arthritis had a negative effect on his ability to parent. The resulting court order required the father to attend drug counseling, parenting classes and to submit to random drug testing. Far more serious was the order that the child remain under the supervision of child protective services, a situation that no fit parent desires.

In interviews with case workers, as well as in court, the father asserted that he takes a number of protective measures to ensure that the now 2-year-old child is not exposed to the drug in any form. He stated that he waits at least four hours between using the drug at work and leaving to pick his son up from daycare. In addition, when at home he asks his adult daughter to care for the boy while he smokes in the garage of the home.

The father filed an appeal of the original ruling, and an appellate court found that there was no evidence of drug abuse in the child custody case. In order to prove abuse allegations, the court determined that a doctor's diagnosis or evidence of substantial negative social or employment behaviors must exist. In summary, the simple presence of drug use does not equate drug abuse. In this ruling, the court did not differentiate medical marijuana use from use of any other prescription medication, which Connecticut residents who require prescription drug treatment may find of note. The outcome frees the father to parent his son as he sees fit, and has been proclaimed as a win for both parental rights and the right to use medical marijuana.

Source: San Francisco Chronicle, "Court lets pot smoker keep child custody," Bob Egelko, Dec. 6, 2012

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