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Should medical marijuana use affect child custody decisions?

Minnesota legalized medical marijuana in 2014, when the legislature passed a law establishing the state's Medical Cannabis Program. The existence of this law raises the question of whether a parent's use of medical marijuana should be a factor in child custody determinations. In California, this has already become an issue.

A recent news story discussed the plight of a Southern California man who alleges he was denied custody of his son after he disclosed that he used medical cannabis, which is legal in California. The man was injured in an auto accident several years ago, and uses marijuana to treat the pain. He says that when he went to court on the custody issue he was told he lacked the cognitive ability to care for the child due to his medical cannabis use. The son was placed in foster care.

Whether this could happen in Minnesota will depend on the facts of the particular case. In any child custody case, alcohol or drug abuse by a parent will be a strong factor against custody. But, there is a big difference between use and abuse. If medical marijuana use does not incapacitate the parent and the child does not have access to the marijuana, it shouldn't preclude custody. But, if there is any evidence that the child's safety will be endangered, a court would likely deny or limit custody, even if the parent's marijuana use is legal under Minnesota's medical cannabis law.

A parent who legally uses medical marijuana and seeks custody of a child must keep in mind that, when deciding custody issues, Minnesota courts look to the best interests of the child, not of the parents.

Source: Pasadena Star-News, "Can marijuana break up a family? Parents face custody issues over legal cannabis use," Brooke Edwards Staggs, Dec. 13, 2016

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