The long, slow march of legalizing recreational and medicinal marijuana has turned into more of a jog over the last few years, as more states embrace high times. Additionally, 15 states have decriminalized possessing small, personal amounts of marijuana.

This progress has helped many adults come out of the shadows and admit that, yes, they too like to toke up every now and then. Whether it’s to get relief from painful medical conditions, reduce anxiety, or just unwind after a long day at work, legal and decriminalized marijuana can help a lot of people.

But ‘Reefer Madness’ Is Still a Thing

Unfortunately, these changes in criminal and business laws often do not correspond with changes in family law. That means that while you will not end up in jail for using legal weed, if you’re a parent, your marijuana usage can still play a role in child welfare and child custody proceedings.

As a recent report highlighted, most states that acted to legalize or decriminalize weed do not have laws that prevent marijuana usage from being considered as a factor in child welfare and custody proceedings. So far, the only state to take that step is Massachusetts.

So a neighbor may see you using weed and call child protective services on you, triggering an investigation. Or if you’re going through a divorce, your soon-to-be ex may raise your weed use with the judge who will determine custody. If that family court judge isn’t on board with the changes to your state’s marijuana laws, they may punish you harshly for using marijuana. They could, for example:

  • Award primary custody to your ex
  • Allow the state to place your children in foster care
  • Force you to submit to drug testing or attend a drug treatment program
  • Make you choose between maintaining custody and stop using legally prescribed marijuana

What Should You Do?

The first, and most important, thing that you should do if you have children is make sure any marijuana you have is kept far out of reach of your children.    

The second thing you should do is think about whether your marijuana usage is worth it. In some cases, such as medical uses, it might be. In others, not so much.

If you find yourself the subject of a child protective services investigation, you need to call an attorney immediately. If you are locked in a custody dispute with your ex, you likely already have a family law attorney. If so, you need to be completely truthful to your attorney about marijuana usage. They will not be able to help you if you keep it a secret.