Of all the types of cases heard in family court, child custody is the most emotionally charged and vehemently fought. Sit in on a case in any courthouse in Pennsylvania on any day and you'll witness parents and their legal representatives slinging slanderous allegations at each other. Due to the changes in state marijuana laws, the mudslinging now often involves cannabis.
Although marijuana is now legal in Pennsylvania, its medicinal and recreational use by either a parent or child is still a reasonable consideration in child custody cases. The law includes provisions that address the use of this substance by minors may be distributed by designated caregivers. However, marijuana is still a Schedule I drug under the Controlled Substances Act with state and criminal legal repercussions.
A recent case in Georgia made headlines for its controversial outcome and became an eye-opening example of how conflicting state and federal laws affect child custody.
The parents of a 15-year-old boy who suffers from epilepsy made the decision to use marijuana to treat their son's chronic seizures. They argued that the seizures were debilitating and were not ceasing after trying traditional treatment and admitting him to their hospital (which is a 45-minute drive from their home). The seizures gradually become more severe over time, and his parents feared they'd eventually kill him.
After exhausting all of their medical options - which included a legal marijuana capsule - they gave their son permission to smoke marijuana. His seizures ceased for 70 days. But their relief was short-lived as the state of Georgia's child welfare agency, on a tip, investigated and removed the young man from his parents' care. The day he was removed from his home was the day he was hospitalized for a severe seizure.
How a court will react to the “legal use” of marijuana is completely unpredictable. But there are some limitations to considerations. Pennsylvania updated their Health and Safety Statute to prevent including medical marijuana as a consideration in a custody proceeding. Yet nothing has been done to amend the custody code to make a similar restriction under custody factors.
As of now, Pennsylvania courts consider medical marijuana the same way it factors in prescription drugs. The focus tends to be on if the substance is being abused or if it is affecting a custodial or non-custodial parent's ability to care for the child. Despite ever-changing marijuana laws in Pennsylvania, it seems there will continue to be issues when federal law conflicts state.
Pennsylvania Family Law Attorney
With all the things to consider in a child custody case, predicting an outcome in a hearing is pretty difficult. This is why it's important you retain a qualified family law attorney who has extensive knowledge of the state's process and has helped families get an arrangement that reflects the best of their child. To ensure your parental rights are protected, and your contributions are considered, contact attorney Joseph D. Lento of the Lento Law Firm today at 888-535-3686.