By far, one of the more hot-button issues among Minnesota lawmakers this year has been the potential legalization of marijuana for medicinal purposes. The issue has emerged due in large to the sustained lobbying efforts of parents whose children are suffering from serious seizure disorders and would likely benefit from the drug.
Governor Mark Dayton has already indicated that he would be amendable to signing a medical marijuana bill, yet it remains unclear as to whether one will actually make it to his desk during the current legislative session. That's because with less than a week left in the term, the Senate has yet to take up the medical marijuana bill passed by the House, postponing it on Monday.
While it remains to be seen whether medical marijuana is coming to the Land of 10,000 Lakes, it does raise some interesting considerations from the perspective of family law. In particular, what affect, if any, would it have on child custody and visitation issues?
Some interesting insight may be gleaned from the state of Nevada, which has actually legalized medical marijuana despite its reputation for having rather stringent drug laws on the books.
According to family law attorneys in that state, just like in Minnesota, judges have significant discretion in deciding what's in the best interests of the child. To that end, they report judges closely examining parents who have a medical marijuana card, wanting to know everything from the parent's reason for having the card, the doctor who prescribed the card, the dose prescribed, how it's taken (ingested v. smoking) and how often it's taken, to name only a few.
Here, they say that judges simply want to ensure that a parent who has a medical marijuana card has procured it in a legitimate manner and isn't just using it as an excuse to get high.
Furthermore, they point out that just because medical marijuana is legal doesn't mean it won't affect custody or visitation.
"It's like alcohol. If you're drunk every day, you should not be around your children," said one Las Vegas-based attorney. "I think that's what people are kind of missing. They think that because it's legal, it's OK. There are a lot of things out there that are legal but not OK."
It will be very interesting to see what happens in the Minnesota family courts regarding child custody/visitation issues if medical marijuana is indeed legalized.
What are your thoughts on this topic? Should medical marijuana be legalized and, if so, how should it be viewed by the courts?
Source: The Las Vegas Sun, "Family law attorney warns high times might lead to loss of custody," Ana Ley, April 23, 2014; The Pioneer Press, "Will Minnesota medical marijuana supporters run out of time?" Christopher Snowbeck, May 12, 2014