Medical marijuana and parental rights
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Medical marijuana and parental rights


No one might have thought to ask the question posed by medical marijuana and parental rights years ago. Marijuana use for medical conditions wasn’t legal in RI until 2006, so the answer then was an easy yes. But even though the state’s has a medical marijuana law on the books, the answer is still not as clear as it could be.

Current law specifies under what conditions allow medical marijuana use. If medically eligible, patients facing criminal charges can ask to dismiss charges.

However, no such language protects parents facing the same medical marijuana and parental rights issue in child custody disputes.


According to one count, there are now around 13,000 people in Rhode Island eligible for medical marijuana treatment. Certainly, some parents make up at least some proportion of that number.

Legal observers might agree that it is odd that if married parents make up some of those users, no regulations apply about how and when they can take their medication. However, if they are not married, courts might exercise some authority over the users as part of their obligation to watch out for the best interests of children.

That happened in one case several years ago. A family court judge heard a petition from a mother concerned about her children’s welfare while they were in the hands of their medical marijuana-using father. The judge ordered the father to abstain from treatment 24 hours before visits with the children.


Some lawmakers acknowledge that some clarification of the medical marijuana law needs work. Specifically, they need to address how it applies to such matters as child custody and visitation. However, they have taken no action at this point, so questions remain.  And as a result, it ends up being in the hands of the courts to make calls on a case by case basis.

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