California Parents Face Custody Issues Over Legal Cannabis Use. Can Marijuana break up a family?
Nathaniel Rudd didn’t know that he was going to be a father until the woman he had dated exactly nine months prior called to notify him from the hospital.
The very next day, Nathaniel, 31 drove to the hospital to hold his baby son, Peter, for the first time. He soon after learned from a social worker that Peter’s mother wouldn’t be able to take him home. Nathaniel immediately began petitioning for custody.
Before taking a mandatory drug test, Nathaniel explained that he uses cannabis, with a doctor’s recommendation, to treat pain from a car accident that he had been in years prior. The drug test came back inconclusive, since he had not medicated in several days.
When Nathaniel went to court a few days later, he learned that the damage had already been done.
“They told me I was cognitively unable to care for my child because of medical marijuana use,” Rudd said.
Peter was placed in foster care in September of 2015 and Nathaniel has been fighting to bring him home ever since.
Nathaniel Rudd and his new fiancée are among hundreds of families who are estimated to be facing custody issues in California over medical marijuana use. These families all got a glimmer of hope on Nov. 8, when California voters approved Proposition 64. Under the new law, California courts can no longer rescind or restrict a parent’s custodial rights solely because they have recommendations for medical marijuana unless there’s a clear threat or evidence of harm as a result of marijuana use.
In Nathaniel’s case, he says that there was never an opportunity for him to demonstrate his care for his son Peter, or for authorities to observe any signs of substance abuse. There was only his own acknowledgement that he was a medical marijuana patient.
Nathaniel pointed out that he had been medicating with marijuana heavy in CBD (the non-psychoactive component of cannabis, primarily used to manage pain and treat cancer patients) This type of cannabis has almost no THC (the main compound that makes consumers high).
Nathaniel insists that he wasn’t ever impaired by his treatment and that he didn’t ever plan to use cannabis around his son. He volunteered to quit using medical marijuana entirely and submit to regular drug testing. Still, to date, he has been unable to gain custody of his son, Peter.
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