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Medical Marijuana and Parenting Plans

Rhode Island allows its citizens may to have medical marijuana cards, authorizing them to grow and use marijuana legally. The statute provides that no school, employer or landlord may refuse to enroll, employ or lease to a person with a medical marijuana card. However, what happens in Family Court when a parent has a medical marijuana card and wants custody and time with his/her children according to a parenting plan?

There are neither statutes on the subject nor any Rhode Island Supreme Court cases regarding this issue. When it comes to custody and parenting plans, the Rhode Island Family Court considers what is in the best interest of a child. Does smoking marijuana impair one's ability to care for a child?

If the person smokes each and every day, is he able to care for a child? Does she fall asleep often after smoking? The child's age may make a difference; as an example, does a child over 14 need less supervision than a child under 10? What effects from smoking marijuana interfere with the ability to supervise or care for a child will be driven by the specific facts of each person and his/her children.

If the holder of a medical marijuana card is growing and even selling marijuana in her home, one should consider that it may invite unsavory people to the house. This is similar to one parent selling items on eBay or Craigslist and having strangers come to the home where the children are present.

I represented a parent with a medical marijuana card in Family Court and the parties and their attorneys agreed upon joint custody, initial supervised visitation (the client had a recent DUI on top of everything) with a review in 4 weeks to modify the supervision, as the client had stopped growing marijuana and was going to lessen his use of the marijuana. However, when we read the agreement into the court record, the Judge added a provision over my objection that was unexpected and questionable.

The client had an interlock on his vehicle, which requires that he blow into it in order to start a vehicle. The Judge, however, said that since marijuana can be detected in chemical screens for up to two weeks after one smokes, that the client could not drive with the children. The Judge did not acknowledge that any impediment from smoking may end after several hours; all that was important was that it could be detected in the chemical screen for up to two weeks.

Although the statute may provide protection for a person with a medical marijuana card, the issue of parenting is fact driven in each particular case.

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Law Office of Steven J. Hirsch, Esq

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