Can Marijuana Usage Impact Custody Battles?

Marijuana usage may impact custody battles even if it is legal for the parent to consume for medical and recreational purposes. The legalization of marijuana is an ongoing topic of debate and legislation. For the past few years, many states discussed whether to make marijuana legal. State congresses also consider whether to legalize the substance for medical use, recreational use or both. Though many citizens believe that marijuana should be legal on state and federal levels, it is still illegal to possess some states. Approximately 75 percent of the fifty states have medical marijuana. However, less than half of states allow recreational marijuana use.

Marijuana, also called cannabis, contains mind-altering substances such as the chemical compound THC. People consume marijuana by smoking it, eating it, mixing it with other foods, breathing in as a vapor, or brewing and drinking it. The effect of cannabis may differ from person to person based on how the person took the drug, strength or amount consumed, and genetics. While some people experience pleasantness and relaxation, others may feel anxiety and fear.

Over the past decade, the percentage of people who favor the legalization of marijuana increased from 50 percent to nearly 70 percent. Scientific reports indicate data that marijuana may also have medical benefits. Individuals with chronic, severe or terminal illnesses may use the substance to ease nausea and increase or stimulate appetite. Patients with cancer, epilepsy and nerve pain may find health benefits from products derived or combined with THC.

Marijuana is legal in Oregon for medical and recreational use. However, many state laws regulate the usage. A person must be 21 years and older to possess marijuana for recreational use. The amount of the substance differs depending on whether the person is on public or private property. Even though carrying recreational marijuana is legal for people 21 and older, it is illegal for anyone to consume it in public.

Like alcohol and other controlled substances, the use and possession of marijuana by one or both parents can be an issue in child custody cases. The judge decides custody based on what is in the best interest of the child. Oregon law states that parents have equal rights to the care and control of their children. The law does not presume that one parent takes priority over the other parent because both are responsible for caring for their children’s needs.  

In making determinations regarding what is in the child’s best interest, the court looks at several factors, such as:

  • The emotional bonds between the child and each parent as well as other family members;
  • Which parent is currently the primary caretaker of the child;
  • The income of each parent; and
  • Each parent’s willingness to encourage and maintain the relationship between the child and the other parent.

Additional factors the judge can consider for child custody are the social environments and lifestyles of each parent. Because parents have the right to control their lives, the court can only look at a parent’s social life and lifestyle if the behavior causes emotional or physical harm to the child. Therefore, a parent may legally use marijuana in Oregon, but the judge may evaluate how the consumption affects the child’s welfare.

The consumption of marijuana can alter a person’s behavior and other functions. Even if a parent takes the substance for medical purposes, the court may have concerns about the child’s well-being while in the parent’s care. Marijuana may cause impairment of a person’s ability to drive, motor skills, mood and breathing. Sole or joint custody may hinge on whether the parent who uses marijuana will take necessary precautions to protect and care for the child, including:

  • Making sure the child cannot access or use marijuana;
  • Carrying the marijuana in public in compliance with Oregon law while the child is in the parent’s care; and
  • Ensuring that the use of marijuana does not interfere with their ability to safely parent.

Much like alcohol, the frequency and the behavior after consumption may cause concern when determining custody arrangement. If the court awards custody to one parent, a noncustodial parent who uses marijuana can have restrictions or regulations placed on their visitation rights.

To schedule a consultation with one of our custody attorneys in Oregon or SW Washington, call us now at 503.222.9116 or write us.

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