When Is A Parent Using Cannabis Considered Child Abuse?

When Is A Parent Using Cannabis Considered Child Abuse?

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It’s not uncommon for parents to face child abuse charges related to their marijuana use in a variety of different situations. On one end of the extreme, there are parents who are licensed medical marijuana patients and wind up facing charges of felony child abuse.

One example is a California couple who in 2015, after neighbors called the police over a verbal argument coming from their house, were arrested and their 11 year-old infant was put in foster care because officers found dispensary-issued marijuana sitting out in the house. The couple spent days in jail and months in court trying to dispute the charge.

On the other end of the extreme you have parents who clearly are endangering the lives of their children through dangerous uses of cannabis, like the Oregon man who just this week pled guilty to two counts of first degree child neglect after his butane hash oil operation blew up his house with his two children both outside last summer.

Mostly law-abiding middle class parents who smoke an occasional joint after their kids go to bed don’t have that much to fear. But parents who choose to administer medical cannabis to their children (particularly those epilepsy with autism) in violation of the law are in a pretty troubling gray area.

This can culminate in some pretty ugly situations like when a desperate mother in Idaho gave cannabis-infused butter to her epileptic daughter after the two year-old suffered bad reactions to pharmaceutical treatments. Because the mother had no access to CBD extract, she used a THC strain to make her own. Once authorities got wind of this, the mother of course lost custody of her two children.

47 states have laws that make using controlled substances around children an offense in and of itself. Only five states (Arkansas, Idaho, Minnesota, Ohio, Oregon, and South Dakota) specifically mention using forms of cannabis as an offense, but since marijuana is a controlled substance on the federal level, state laws against the parental use of controlled substances can apply to marijuana, even in states which have legalized the drug. That’s how you get into a mess like the California couple mentioned above.

Is there any endangerment for a child if parents use marijuana in their home? This of course varies family to family and depends on your criteria. Researchers from UCLA recently found that homes they studied in which parents used marijuana were more likely to see physical neglect and physical abuse. This is possibly comparable to homes in which parents drink alcohol, but drinking alcohol by itself is of course not grounds for revoking custody or charges of child abuse.

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