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No one might have thought to ask the question posed above a few years ago. Marijuana use for medical conditions wasn’t legal in Rhode Island until 2006, so the answer would have been 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 medical marijuana use is allowed, and there is a provision that stipulates that patients facing criminal prosecution for marijuana use can seek to dismiss the charges if they show they are medically eligible. There is no such language, however, about whether the same defense might be used when medical marijuana use is an issue in disputes over child custody and visitation rights.

Unintended legal consequences

According to one count, there are currently around 13,000 individuals in Rhode Island eligible for medical marijuana treatment. You can be sure that some parents make up at least some proportion of that number.

Legal observers might agree that it is odd that if those users are married parents, 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 who was 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 in Providence acknowledge that some clarification of the medical marijuana law as it applies to such matters as child custody and visitation need to be addressed, but no action has been taken at this point, so questions remain and it ends up being in the hands of the courts to make calls on a case by case basis.

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