How Legal Marijuana Will Affect Troubled Families

Mar 5, 2013

Last fall, vot­ers for the first time approved the legal­iza­tion of mar­i­juana for recre­ational use at the state level – in Col­orado and Wash­ing­ton. Since then, much atten­tion has focused on the con­flict between state and fed­eral law, which still clas­si­fies the drug as ille­gal. But state legal­iza­tion also raises impor­tant ques­tions at the per­sonal level. Many of them cen­ter around the fam­ily. As attor­neys prac­tic­ing fam­ily law in Col­orado, we feel it’s impor­tant to con­sider these ques­tions, espe­cially since the push is on for recre­ational legal­iza­tion in other states. Ore­gon, Cal­i­for­nia, and Maine may be next. (Eigh­teen states plus the Dis­trict of Colum­bia have legal­ized med­ical mar­i­juana.) Colorado’s con­sti­tu­tional amend­ment states that indi­vid­u­als can pur­chase mar­i­juana from autho­rized retail­ers and that licensed grow­ers can pro­duce com­mer­cial quan­ti­ties for retail­ers. The intent is to treat mar­i­juana like alco­hol. That’s not so easy in prac­tice. Based on our legal expe­ri­ence, we’d like to offer a sce­nario – fic­tional, but real­is­tic – to illus­trate how con­se­quen­tial Colorado’s change will be for fam­i­lies, and how far the state still needs to go to address unre­solved issues. Con­sider Michael and Eliz­a­beth Jones who have two chil­dren, Ash­ley, age 16, and Mon­ica, age 13. The par­ents are no longer such a happy cou­ple, although they all still live in a lovely home in High­lands Ranch, a well-off sub­urb of Den­ver. Ash­ley is a rebel – hang­ing out with the wrong boys, sneak­ing out of the house late at night, and thumb­ing her nose at her par­ents’ author­ity now that she has a driver’s license and a car. Mon­ica is just the oppo­site of her big sis­ter, strug­gling at school socially. ‘But Honey, It’s Legal Now.’ Three to four nights a week, Michael qui­etly steps into the back­yard or goes to the base­ment to smoke a joint. Eliz­a­beth has never approved of his mar­i­juana use, and as the chil­dren get older she has increas­ing con­cerns about their expo­sure to it. Michael says: “What’s the big deal? It’s legal here now. You don’t hear me com­plain when you have wine after din­ner.” The final straw comes when Michael decides to make some extra money to pay down credit-card bills (the per­fect fam­ily vaca­tion to Hawaii is expen­sive). He starts a small grow oper­a­tion in the base­ment to sell mar­i­juana. Eliz­a­beth files for divorce – and she doesn’t want Michael to have the chil­dren at all because she believes that the grow oper­a­tion and his recre­ational mar­i­juana use are dan­ger­ous to the chil­dren. What hap­pens to fam­i­lies when pot is involved? Drug use is often an issue in divorce and par­ent­ing cases. Usu­ally, one par­ent does not approve of the other’s drink­ing or use of ille­gal drugs – or addic­tion. His­tor­i­cally, it’s been fairly easy to take a case to court with proof that a par­ent is ille­gally using drugs and limit that parent’s con­tact with the chil­dren. That all changed with mar­i­juana legal­iza­tion. The courts do not rou­tinely take chil­dren away from a par­ent because that par­ent legally con­sumes a rea­son­able quan­tity of alco­hol – a legal sub­stance. Will the courts take the same approach with mar­i­juana? Nobody knows. On one hand, judges tend to rep­re­sent a more con­ser­v­a­tive demo­graphic and may con­tinue to be shocked by a parent’s recre­ational mar­i­juana use (not to men­tion the state law’s con­flict with fed­eral law). Yet the inten­tion of the new Col­orado law appears to be to treat mar­i­juana as much like alco­hol as pos­si­ble: Legal­ize it, but reg­u­late pro­duc­tion, sale, and use to mit­i­gate any dan­gers asso­ci­ated with it. If we don’t penal­ize a par­ent for hav­ing a glass of wine or two after din­ner while the kids are in bed, why should we penal­ize a par­ent for smok­ing a small quan­tity of pot? Can a par­ent han­dle a cri­sis while high? For exam­ple, what if one of the Jones chil­dren has a med­ical emer­gency in the mid­dle of the night after Michael has smoked pot; could he han­dle the cri­sis? Are there vary­ing degrees of intox­i­ca­tion from mar­i­juana, rang­ing from mild (like a drink or two of alco­hol) to inca­pac­i­tat­ing the user, to the point at which a court should say: “No, you can’t par­ent when you’re stoned!” These are pre­cisely the argu­ments raised by Michael and Eliz­a­beth in their now-contentious cus­tody case. Mean­while, Ash­ley is invited on a camp­ing trip with friends (includ­ing teens her mother doesn’t approve of). When Eliz­a­beth refuses to allow it, Ash­ley runs away to her father’s and refuses to speak to her mother. But Michael comes home from work one evening and finds Ash­ley and her car gone, along with half of his crop of mar­i­juana. He soon receives a call from the Nebraska police. Ash­ley has been arrested for pos­ses­sion of an ille­gal sub­stance. Even if she were of age, mar­i­juana isn’t a legal sub­stance in Nebraska. Mon­ica has also helped her­self to her father’s stash, and is expelled from school. She didn’t use it, she says. She just wanted to show it around so kids would stop bul­ly­ing her. All Those Tricky Ques­tions Can safe­guards be fash­ioned so that a par­ent can still have his or her chil­dren at home where mar­i­juana is being grown? So that mar­i­juana does not make its way across state lines? So that it does not end up in schools or other inap­pro­pri­ate are­nas? Are locks on base­ment doors good enough? Parental guid­ance and super­vi­sion? What is good enough? And what about drug test­ing? Mar­i­juana remains in the user’s sys­tem much longer than alco­hol, and there is no test avail­able to defin­i­tively estab­lish when or how much of the drug was used. Blood test­ing may be one option, but it is costly and requires a lab­o­ra­tory set­ting and trained pro­fes­sion­als to draw blood. And how does one deter­mine if some­one who tests pos­i­tive for mar­i­juana used it legally in Col­orado – while not oper­at­ing a vehi­cle and inside state lines – given the dif­fi­cul­ties of test­ing? One place to start answer­ing the vast range of ques­tions we raise is with research that aims to pro­duce a method of test­ing that eas­ily deter­mines level of impair­ment. Until then, Col­orado will have to work through these issues on an ad hoc basis. Other states con­sid­er­ing legal­iza­tion should real­ize that treat­ing mar­i­juana like alco­hol is not as easy as it sounds. Alexan­dra White and Car­olyn Witkus are share­hold­ers at Gut­ter­man Grif­fiths PC in Lit­tle­ton, Colo. Both attor­neys spe­cial­ize in high-conflict par­ent­ing lit­i­ga­tion, includ­ing cases involv­ing sub­stance abuse. Source: Chris­t­ian Sci­ence Mon­i­tor (US) Author: Alexan­dra White and Car­olyn Witkus Pub­lished: March 4, 2013 Copy­right: 2013 The Chris­t­ian Sci­ence Pub­lish­ing Soci­ety Con­tact: letters@​csmonitor.​com Web­site: http://​www​.csmon​i​tor​.com/

35fbe60ab7poor.jpg 150x112 How Legal Marijuana Will Affect Troubled Families

Here is the orig­i­nal post:
How Legal Mar­i­juana Will Affect Trou­bled Families

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