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How a Parent’s Medical Marijuana Card May Affect Child Custody

One of the newest frontiers in Pennsylvania family law is how a parent’s legal medical marijuana use can impact child custody. Before the passage of the Medical Marijuana Act in 2016, a parent who used marijuana faced an uphill battle when it came to custody. But now, custody determinations have become more complicated.

Two things, however, are clear, thanks to a recent Pennsylvania Superior Court ruling:

  • Even if a parent has a medical marijuana card, courts are still allowed to review and analyze that parent’s history of drug use or abuse, along with evaluating the medical condition for which the parent uses medical marijuana.
  • Custody decisions are still made by determining what arrangements are in the best interests of the child, analyzing all 16 of the factors listed in Pennsylvania law, which include how a parent’s drug use may impact a parent’s fitness.

In the case, Appeal of C.P., a father who had a medical marijuana card asked the court to modify an existing custody arrangement so he could spend more time with his child. The father had a history of drug abuse and had used marijuana recreationally for many years, dating back to when he was a teenager. The evidence at the trial showed that he even fed his child a graham cracker topped with marijuana-laced peanut butter.

During the trial, the father said he was taking medical marijuana to treat wrist pain. However, he did not have his doctor testify. There was also no testimony about how his parenting ability might be affected by his medical marijuana use. The trial court held that “without benefit of testimony from the doctor who the father alleges authorized the use of medical marijuana, it is not in the best interest of the child to expand his partial custody.”

The father appealed, arguing that because he had a medical marijuana card, the trial judge should not have considered his history of drug use or the possible effects marijuana use could have on his parenting. The appeals court upheld the judge’s decision, stating that “the Medical Marijuana Act does not preclude the trial court from making relevant findings concerning the effect of marijuana use, whether medical or recreational.”

If you or your child’s other parent has a medical marijuana card and you are concerned about how marijuana use affects child custody, please contact The Law Offices of Jennifer Courtney, P.C., in Yardley. Our experienced family law attorneys are on top of this new issue and would be happy to explain how the law may be applied in your situation. Call 215.493.3360 or contact us online to schedule a consultation.

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