Recreational Use of Cannabis and Your Custody Battle

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July 14, 2015


Until the last year or so, it was pretty clear in the eyes of the law: good parents didn’t smoke dope. But what was once a subversive, illegal drug is now not just main stream, but completely legal for recreational use in Washington, Colorado and most recently Oregon.

But how does the recreational use of marijuana affect custody battles, even in the post-legalization era?

“Recreational and medical marijuana use has been decriminalized in some way in 29 states,” according to, “but that often doesn’t apply to family court and social services.”

Family Court and Social Services View the Use of Cannabis Differently

While the substance use may be legal in terms of medical or even recreational use, the involvement of minors complicates matters.

The Maine Supreme Judicial Court, for example, unanimously made a decision back in January that although medical marijuana is legal in Maine, it can still make a person unfit as a parent. Chief Justice Leigh Saufley authored the ruling in an eight-page decision.

“Determining what is in the best interest of the child necessarily involves considering whether a parent’s ability to care for his or her child is impaired, including by his of her marijuana use,” Saufley wrote, “As with any medication or substance, the question of whether a parent’s ingestion of marijuana is legal is only part of the equation. The more important question is whether that ingestion negatively affects, limits or impairs a parent’s capacity to parent his or her child.”

Abuse vs. Use

Regardless of the substance, if a parent is addicted to or abusing drugs or alcohol, the courts are not going to deem the person a fit parent. Although recreational use is not the same as drug abuse, the cultural shift from marijuana as a taboo to a household item is still taking place.

What Cannabis Use Means to Your Custody Case

The recreational use of marijuana can be a possible factor in custody cases, but how it may impact a custody ruling must be taken into consideration on a case-by-case basis. Even if marijuana users know the laws surrounding cannabis in their state of residence —  including the legal grow, purchase and carry limits — the substance’s impact on custody remains largely uncharted territory.

If you or your partner use cannabis medically or for recreation, consult your attorney about how it affects your case.