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Parents may lose custody of their children for a myriad of reasons. If they use drugs, for example, there may be a concern that they are endangering their children. When it comes to medical marijuana, the courts may have to decide if a child is safe in an environment where it is used. Recently, a California man was allowed to retain child custody despite smoking marijuana for medicinal purposes.

The Los Angeles County man has custody of his 2-year-old son due to the child's mother suffering from a history of mental illness and drug abuse. However, county child-protective services believed that this man was endangering the child because he smoked medical marijuana several times weekly to alleviate arthritis pain. In 2011, the man explained to a social worker how he took care of his son and prevented him from being affected by his marijuana use. Although child-protective services determined that the child was healthy, they took the father to court because of his drug use.

The Superior Court placed him under the supervision of child-protective services, and he was ordered to take parenting classes, receive drug counseling and take random drug tests. The Second District Court of Appeal in Los Angeles overturned this ruling because the court could not find any evidence that his son was exposed to the drug use or secondhand smoke. The court concluded that the father's use of marijuana did not constitute drug abuse, so it should not impact child custody.

The county could still appeal this ruling to the California Supreme Court, since it is clear that the courts disagree on what is in the best interests of the child. For now, the father may feel a sense of justice knowing that his method for treating his health issues will not compromise his child custody rights. Custodial parents in our state who face similar situations may wish to better understand all the nuances in cases like this so that they can be prepared to fight for their rights and those of their children.

Source: sfgate.com, "Court lets pot smoker keep child custody," Bob Egelko, Dec. 6, 2012

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