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When marijuana issues affect your parenting situation

Colorado has legalized personal, private use and individual possession of marijuana in certain amounts. This measure practically allows adults over the age of 21 to use marijuana in their homes without becoming subject to marijuana-related charges, provided that they possess no more than an ounce at a time. Residents will also not be subject to criminal consequences if they grow up to six marijuana plants for non-commercial cultivation. However, this does not mean that choosing to exercise one's rights under this new measure will be a consequence-free decision.

Coloradoans are likely now familiar with many of the controversies surrounding legal, recreational marijuana use. Three of the most widely publicized are the clash between state and federal law generally, driving while under the influence of marijuana concerns and the role that marijuana use may play in employment decisions. However, marijuana use, growing and sales may also impact an individual's family law situation.

You do not need to be charged with a crime to be judged by a court of family law. For example, judges are charged with ensuring that child custody arrangements serve the best interests of the affected children. If the judge who is assigned to your divorce case does not approve of your marijuana use or cultivation, it is possible that he or she will use this behavior as evidence that your children's best interests are not served by living with you.

In general, parents are not deemed unfit or unworthy of custody for consuming alcohol in reasonable amounts, so one would think that marijuana users would receive the same treatment from the courts. However, marijuana is still illegal federally and many judges have strong opinions about its use. Only time will tell whether parents will be subjected to family law consequences as a result of their legal recreational marijuana use or cultivation.

Source: The Denver Post, "Parenting and pot: Colorado divorce lawyers' perspective on marijuana legalization," Alexandra White and Carolyn Witkus, Jan. 27, 2013

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