Medical Marijuana And Child Custody

Adults and children with debilitating illness and disease may be eligible to obtain and consume marijuana legally now under The New Jersey Compassionate Use Medical Marijuana Act. The law is very clear as to the particular medical conditions for which a patient can be approved for the Medical Marijuana Program.

It is not designed to authorize anyone to use marijuana, a controlled substance, in any quantity at any time. It is designed specifically to help people cope with debilitating pain.

Parents with custody of minor children may become eligible to use medical marijuana. And children under the age of 18 may also become eligible. So the issues surrounding marijuana use in general have become a significant issue in child custody matters.

Users are constrained by law from operating any motor vehicle while under the influence of marijuana. This important fact impacts many parents with custody of their children.

And minor users are required to have a legal custodian who assumes responsibility as their primary caregiver until they are 18 years of age. This fact can impact child custody agreements as well.

There is not yet a large body of case law regarding users of medical marijuana who are parents with custody of their children, or children in the custody of their parents. But one 2015 child custody case concerning involving parents located in Maine and Florida may be of interest to people in New Jersey now.

Biddeford District Court in Portland, Maine awarded custody of Dustin Sternick’s 4 yr old daughter to her mother, Jeanette Daggett who was planning a move to Florida with the child. The judge’s decision was based on Sternick’s heavy use of medical marijuana and apparent lack of parental responsibility as a result.

Sternick appealed the lower court ruling, and his case was reviewed by the Maine Supreme Judicial court, which included the following in denying his appeal:

“As with any medication or substance, the question of whether a parent’s ingestion of marijuana is legal is only part of the equation,” she [Chief Justice Leigh Saufley] wrote. “The more important question is whether that ingestion negatively affects, limits, or impairs a parent’s capacity to parent his or her child.”

Some legal commentators see this case as setting a precedent other states may choose to follow. If you are involved in a child custody matter as a user of medical marijuana, or if your child’s other parent is a user, call us for a no-obligation consultation, (732) 370-9596. Or email us to make an appointment and discuss your child custody situation.

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