Custody and pot

A “friend” of mine has a problem: She is going through a rough divorce, and her ex is threatening to take the kids because of her medical cannabis use. Can he do that?

—Concerned “Friend”

The answer used to be yes, but the times, they are a-changin’. Last year, the sheriff’s department took away the children of Daisy Bram, a young mother of two living in Butte County, after they raided her small cannabis-growing operation. They charged her with child endangerment. It took six months, but the charges were eventually dropped and her children were returned to her care.

Recently, the California Courts of Appeal found that someone using marijuana did not automatically mean someone was abusing marijuana. In this case, the father (known as “Paul M.” in court records) had a recommendation for medical cannabis, and would medicate in a shed outside of the house while an adult family member watched his child. The cannabis was also kept in a locked box in the shed. Originally, the Los Angeles Department of Children and Family Services had ordered the father to take random drug tests, and the lower court agreed, but the appeals court reversed that decision, stating, “both DCFS and the trial court apparently confused the meanings of the terms ’substance use’ and ’substance abuse.’” As it stands now, medical cannabis is being treated more and more like a regular prescription and less like a criminal offense. If you take the necessary precautions, there is no reason for you to lose custody of your kids over your cannabis use. Good luck.

Dude! Legalization in Colorado and Washington state, the fed crackdown in California, the raids on many Sacramento dispensaries—there’s a lot going on! Did you ever think all this would happen in your lifetime?

—The Tripping Point

Dude, yes way. I am surprised that it has taken this long. Many people thought President Jimmy Carter was going to legalize weed in the 1970s. Carter actually came out in favor of its decriminalization, saying, “Penalties against possession of a drug should not be more damaging to an individual than the use of the drug itself; and where they are, they should be changed. Nowhere is this more clear than in the laws against possession of marijuana in private for personal use.”

Nothing ever came of it, Ronald Reagan was elected president, and the “war on some drugs” began in earnest. The ’80s were rough on pot activists, but the ’90s saw many advances. Proposition 215 was passed in 1996. Medical-cannabis dispensaries started in the ’90s, and medical-marijuana legislation spread to other states. By the time President Barack Obama was elected, many people acted like cannabis—at least medical cannabis—was already legal. There has been plenty of backlash the past year-and-a-half, but this year’s election has shown that not only does ending cannabis prohibition make sense as both an economic and a social-liberty issue, it also has the political will of the voting public.

If we start now (like I always say: Start early, you’re probably stoned), I bet we can get some form of weed decriminalization in at least five more states by 2016. We are winning. Go hard.