I have met countless parents who have had to go through the heartache of having their child removed from their home due to cannabis alone. These people were good parents, and often were licensed medical marijuana patients. They worked hard and provided for their child or children. The only reason that their families were ripped apart was because the parents either used cannabis for medical purposes, or chose to consume recreational cannabis instead of a more harmful substance like alcohol.
This was the case for one mother in New Jersey. Fortunately for her and her child, a New Jersey court ruled that the removal of her child for cannabis alone was wrong. Per Lady Bud:
Two days before Christmas, an appellate court in New Jersey gave one Garden state mother the best possible gift; a panel headed by Honorable Carmen Alvarez ruled that not only were verbal admissions about possible cannabis use insufficient evidence for an emergency removal order of an infant child but that the state failed to provide any evidence that simply using cannabis constituted child abuse or neglect. While at first glance, this simply appears to be a case of the courts using common sense, in reality it is a major departure from the common practices of the family court system that have existed for decades.
The unnamed 18-year-old mother (R.W.), who became the defendant in this case, was arrested for a violation of her parole in March of 2011. Shortly thereafter, she and her daughter were placed in the state’s Capable Adolescent Mothers (CAM) Program. R.W. naively believed that speaking honestly with the CAM worker was the best way to handle the situation, and she allegedly admitted to cannabis use while caring for her daughter. This was passed along the chain of command, and an emergency order for R.W.’s daughter’s removal was issued.
That story is one that plays out regularly across the nation. Because there are no national reporting requirements for child welfare agencies, it is impossible to know exactly how many children are removed from parental custody solely for cannabis, but anecdotal information indicates that they represent a not insignificant percentage of children removed from their homes. Thankfully, in this case, R.W. decided she was going to fight for her daughter. Even more thankfully, her appeal landed in front of a reasonable panel.
I get the fact that a child’s safety needs to always be considered, and that sometimes it is better for a child to be removed form a home instead of being left in an unsafe situation. However, that should only occur if there is clear abuse. Cannabis consumption alone is no reason to turn a child’s life upside down. There are a lot of responsible parents out there that choose to use marijuana rather than alcohol or pharmaceuticals, and there is nothing wrong with that.