As of the time of writing, 18 states and the District of Columbia have already legalized marijuana for recreational use. A majority of US states have also approved it for medicinal use. In these areas, it’s legal for adults over the age of 18 – parents included – to consume marijuana the way they would a bottle of beer.
However, the stigma is still there. The cultural bias can still be astounding especially for parents who need marijuana the most. Each state has its own specific laws regarding cannabis use though in many cases, it’s far too easy to charge a parent for endangerment or even child neglect if they consume marijuana and others suspect that their children are being put at risk.
While we’re living in terrific times – legal marijuana and all – parents must still think carefully and strategize around cannabis consumption. Whether or not your cannabis use puts your child at risk, it will depend on many things such as how conservative your social circle is, whether you act impaired around your child or not, and what your lawyer thinks. Unfortunately, there are many gray areas still at this time when it comes to parenting, child safety, and marijuana use.
There are many parents who have no problem consuming responsibly. After all, what ‘harm’ is being done when you smoke a few puffs when your kid is in bed? Then there again, there are also those who abuse it, and they give the rest of the responsible parents a bad rap.
Impact Of Cannabis Legalization On Foster Care
Cannabis law can have a direct impact on child welfare, though there must also be laws in place that would protect parents. Several studies have shown that cannabis use actually reduces domestic violence at home, and can even have a positive impact on child welfare.
Earlier this year, a study appeared on Economic Inquiry which shed hopeful light on the possible benefits that cannabis may have on foster care admissions. According to researchers, cannabis legalization led to a 10% reduction in foster care placement. They expect that this number could increase should the United States legalize marijuana on a national level.
The researchers hypothesized a few factors that could have contributed to the decrease in foster care placements. For one, cannabis law reform pushes states to update foster care policies to be relevant to the drug laws. As a result, amendments lead to a drop in incarceration since the antiquated cannabis laws state that children should be removed from homes if parents are charged with some marijuana possession laws.
Governments can save a tremendous amount of money from child welfare interventions if cannabis is legalized nationally. The study’s researchers estimate that the cost for one foster care placement is around $25,000, and a 10% decrease in foster care placements mean that 27,000 less kids would have to enter the system. This can save the government as much as $675 million.
More importantly, this means that children can grow up in safe, happier homes – no different than one of a sober parent provided that parents do so responsibly. Reasonable cannabis laws for parents would mean that households are more stable while parents still have access to the medicine that they need to function efficiently as both a human and a parent.
We can only hope that our state government can be on the side of parents. In California, for example, Sacramento Governor Gavin Newsom just signed bills that would protect cannabis consuming parents. Assembly Bill 2595, which was introduced by Bill Quirk (D-Hayward), mandates that California’s Department of Social Services (DSS) must update “all regulations, all-county letters, and other instructions relating to the investigation of a minor”. It goes on to add that if a social worker has to investigate an alleged case involving child abuse or neglect, the child’s guardian or parents’ use of marijuana should be treated in the same way that they would if the guardian or parent possessed alcohol or other legally prescribed drugs.
“As is the case with alcohol and prescription medication, parents and guardians should be allowed to safely and legally use cannabis without fear of having their children permanently removed from their care, provided there are no other concerns regarding the child’s safety,” says Assemblymember Reggie Jones-Sawyer (D), who sponsored the bill.
Higher Risk In Prohibition States
Parents who live in states where cannabis isn’t legal yet will have to face more serious risks. Child Protective Services in these states are much stricter when it comes to parents consuming cannabis. The risk grows in proportion to how relaxed cannabis laws are in your state, but parents also have to comply with any state laws.
For example, even if you live in a state that has decriminalized marijuana, laws may not do much to protect parents if you consume recreationally and without a medical marijuana card. Again, it depends on the specific state: some legal protections exist in certain states.
It’s the job of family courts to make sure that the best interest of kids are always protected. Make sure that your kids can’t access marijuana in your home, and don’t accidentally see gummies lying around and ensure that you don’t blow smoke in their face. But you already knew this.
There still are blurred lines when it comes to what’s deemed as acceptable and what’s not; while societal rules are changing, people’s personal norms aren’t because if it’s acceptable to smoke weed outside, how do parents set ground rules at home? The gray area is challenging at best though it would help if parents have more scientific and factual information about how to discuss marijuana with children at home – and specific guidelines to consume it when they need it.
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