Medical Marijuana and Child Custody Cases
Columbus GA Divorce Lawyer Mark Jones Discusses Medical Marijuana and Child Custody Cases
With the recent passage of Georgia’s medical marijuana law, medical marijuana is a major legal issue that will have a huge impact on the legal system. While Georgia’s law is very conservative in comparison to the medical marijuana laws of western states such as California, Colorado, Washington state, and Oregon, medical marijuana is still a major legal issue that will have a huge impact on the legal system.
But what impact has medical or recreational marijuana use had on the family law system? This was a question that I decided to research for an article I wrote for a friend of mine, the draft of which is available here.
Before delving into the findings in my article, it is important to bear in mind that pursuant to OCGA 9-11-65(e), our Superior Court Judges are very much the gatekeepers to our children and our children’s best interests. Oftentimes, this gatekeeper role is triggered in divorce cases where the custody of a child is at issue, but it can also come in the form of a legitimation petition or a modification action post-divorce.
My conclusions after research the issue of what impact medical and recreational marijuana use are having on custody decisions in family law cases is as follows:
- In states where medical or recreational marijuana use are legal, the fact that a parent uses marijuana is not, by itself, enough to justify a denial or modification of custody / parenting time;
- Rather, in order to deny or modify custody / parenting time in such states, there must be a specific showing that a parent’s medical or recreation use of marijuana harms the child or otherwise impacts the child’s well being or best interests;
- Family courts have identified numerous factors that tend to show that a parent’s legal marijuana use harms the child’s best interest including: whether the parent uses marijuana while exercising parenting time, where the parent stores the marijuana, and whether the parent’s marijuana use constitutes substance abuse under the DSM-IV, just to name a few; and
- Family court judges should continue to employ traditional tools such as drug testing, drug counseling, and ordering the parent not use marijuana while exercising parenting time in order to ensure the child’s best interest are protected despite a parent’s legal use of medical or recreational marijuana
It is important to note that as a general proposition, marijuana possession and use is still very much illegal in Georgia despite the laws in our progressive sister states. Nevertheless, as more and more states move towards legalizing broad medicinal use of marijuana, Georgia’s family court system will have to wrestle with difficult issues concerning a parent’s marijuana use due to the fact that some parents may move to states where such use is permitted, forcing a judge to determine parenting time and other visitation for such a parent. Thus, medical marijuana use will be a sticky issue for family law judges to deal with in the future.
If you have been charged with marijuana possession in Georgia or Alabama or are facing a divorce or child custody issue in Georgia or Alabama, contact Mark Jones for a confidential consultation regarding your legal issue.
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