The Crossroads of Child Custody Proceedings and Medical Marijuana

By Dawn Padanyi, Esquire

On April 17, 2016, the medical marijuana program (SB 3) was signed into law in Pennsylvania by Governor Tom Wolf.

The medical marijuana became available to patients at approved dispensaries on February 15, 2018.

Under the law individuals with 17 serious medical conditions can legally be prescribed medical marijuana by a doctor during an in-office visit.

As a family law practitioner, this raises the question of how the new law will affect child custody cases.

Time will tell how the Courts will address the topic as it is most certainly going to come up in situations where one parent uses medical marijuana and the other does not.

On its face, it appears that the Courts could look at medical marijuana similar to any other controlled substance that is prescribed to an individual.

Marijuana, even though it is legal to medically prescribe it, can still impair some functionality of an individual.  That being said, just like any other medication that can have positive effects while still impairing some abilities, it must be taken and used with responsibility and control.

Marijuana can affect an individual’s ability to safely parent and supervise children.

Also, while medical marijuana is legal, it still must be taken as prescribed and in accordance with law.  That means that individuals can only legally attain it from an approved dispensary and in the prescribed amounts and can only consume it in the prescribed doses.  Furthermore, even possessing more than is legally permitted is a violation of law.

While the law protects individuals from the Court considering the use of medical marijuana as an automatic negative factor in custody proceedings, the issue of whether or not the parent is legally and responsibly using the medication is an issue that will likely still be heavily litigated before the Court.

How will this issue be monitored and used in determining the best interest of a child in custody proceedings?

Will the Court enter orders restricting the time and use of the medication?

Is it proper for a Court to restrict a medication or will they merely state the medication should be taken as prescribed?

Will the Court see more regular drug tests of parents to determine whether or not the parent is taking the medication as prescribed?

These are all questions that will be answered in time and shortly as medical marijuana dispensaries are currently filling more and more prescriptions for medical marijuana.

If you have a child custody case, particularly with the issue of medical marijuana please contact the Law Office of Dawn Padanyi to ensure that you and your children are safe and protected, whether you are a parent prescribed medical marijuana or not.