A California court, in In Re Drake M, ruled that use of medical marijuana four to five times a week to manage pain without a showing of negative impact on work or other responsibilities is not drug abuse. A father had his child taken away from him after a hearing in Juvenile Court based on evidence that he smoked marijuana at home four hours before picking up his child from day care. The social worker from the Department of Children and Family Services (DCFS) argued that the Court could assume that the father was still under the influence of marijuana after four hours. Based on that assumption, it was argued that the father was driving his child while under the influence of marijuana, putting the child in danger.
The Court of Appeal ruled that showing that father smoked marijuana four hours before picking up his child was not enough to show a risk of harm to the child. The Court said that there must be some evidence presented that someone would be still under the influence of marijuana four hours later, or that the father’s driving was actually impaired when he picked up his son from day care in order for the Juvenile Court to decide that the child was in danger.
The Court of Appeal also said that DCFS did not show the father abused marijuana as required by the statute. The father had a proper prescription for marijuana to manage his joint pain, never used marijuana in the presence of the child, and the marijuana was not stored anywhere the child might access it. The father testified that he usually smoked four hours before picking up his son from day care and would not pick up his son if he still felt like he was under the influence of marijuana. DCFS testified that father was employed and able to take care of his child financially. There was no evidence that the father’s marijuana use had any impact on his job.
This ruling is useful because it provides some guidance on what responsible marijuana use by a parent looks like. The Court also gave a clear definition of what drug abuse looks like so that the line between drug use and drug abuse is clearer. The arguments made at the Juvenile Court by DCFS show that the social worker in this case does not believe there is such a thing as responsible use of medical marijuana. Thankfully, the Court of Appeal focused on the lack of evidence of specific harm to the child.
If you need help to fight for custody of your child, you should consult with an attorney to determine the best course of action. Call Paul D. McGuire at the Law Office of Paul D. McGuire to schedule a free consultation.