Parenting in the Age of Legal Marijuana

By Rayna Brachmann, Esq.

Nevada legalized marijuana for both medical and recreational use in July, 2018.  Marijuana dispensaries are easy to find in the cities and acceptance of marijuana use appears to be growing.  This can add complications both for parties in custody disputes, and parents struggling to figure out how to address marijuana with their teenage children.

It was these issues that lead me to this article written by a pediatrician about marijuana use in teens and others, and the medical implications of same.  This is a distinct issue from how marijuana use can impact a custody dispute between parents.  However, it is relevant for anyone dealing with the Family Court system to be aware of.

From a medical perspective, it appears clear that exposure to marijuana among adolescents and children has demonstrated negative impacts.  This includes exposure to secondhand marijuana smoke.  Medical literature reflects that the younger a person is who uses marijuana, the more likely they are to experience detrimental impacts.

While the article linked here addresses how parents may address marijuana use by their children, it is a helpful resource for parents who choose to use marijuana whether for a medical issue, or recreationally.  A parent who uses marijuana may convey a sense of acceptance to children who are then more likely to use marijuana themselves.  Given the medical literature demonstrating negative implications for marijuana use in younger people, that should give all parents pause to consider.

Yes, marijuana is legal in Nevada.  It is my experience with Judges that when the issue of a parent’s legal use of marijuana comes up in court, the Judge tends to assess the judgment of the parent using the marijuana when determining what impact, if any, it has on their parenting abilities and the children.  From a legal perspective, that is appropriate.  Judges should not punish behavior that is legal in Nevada.  Unless that behavior negatively impacts a child, marijuana use by a parent is largely deemed to be a non-issue in most legal contexts in Nevada.  However, any parent who uses marijuana and is involved in a custody dispute should be very mindful of the impacts of their own use of marijuana on a child’s attitude about marijuana.  To the extent that a parent is casual in their marijuana use, and a child believes that marijuana experimentation is similarly not a big deal, given the medical literature on this issue, a strong argument could be made that the marijuana using parent is not acting in the best interest of the children.  When custody is in dispute, I would advise my clients to think very carefully about their use of marijuana to avoid creating an argument for the other parent that the marijuana use is not in the best interest of a child.

Kimberly Surratt served for eight years on the executive council and has been the vice chair and then chair of the State Bar of Nevada Family Law Section. In addition, she is the President-Elect of the Nevada Justice Association and the chair of the domestic lobbying committee. She has lobbied with the Nevada Justice Association since 2004.

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