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Evolving: Issues regarding legalized pot, parenting considerations

Florida family law attorneys obviously deal with a wide range of issues and considerations pursuant to their representation of clients in divorce matters, including on occasion issues of a parent's alleged or proven drug use in the context of child custody and visitation.

A central focus in such instances is this: To what degree does a parent's use of drugs impact on his or her parental fitness?

That question is obviously tinged with varied factors and more than its fair share of complexity. The drug use -- the type of drug and frequency with which it is consumed -- must be considered. Is a parent before the law for an isolated instance of a small amount of marijuana intended for personal use, or is there a demonstrated history of abuse of strong narcotics? Are there previous drug-related convictions? Domestic violence associated with drug use? Examples of child neglect owing to drug consumption? Child support payments compromised by expenditures on drugs?

Florida attorneys and judges might someday be tasked to consider even more problematic questions than those if future legal enactments provide for some level of legalization -- say, for marijuana -- in the state. That seems unlikely currently, although initiatives for legalizing medical marijuana have cropped up in the past and continue to do so presently. Moreover, 18 states have already legalized medicinal pot, and legislation to do so in pending in several more.

And a trend, although admittedly in its first innings presently, has recently emerged to legalizing pot for recreational use. Both Washington and Colorado residents can now possess up to an ounce of marijuana and freely consume it at home.

Where pot is legal for some stated purpose and to a specified degree, parenting issues can become even more problematic. Should a joint or two be equated with some stated amount of alcohol consumption? Should parents be allowed to smoke legal marijuana in front of their children? If it is legal to grow some small amount of pot at home, is that nonetheless a concern where children are present? How stoned is "too stoned" to be an effective care provider? Should occasional and legal pot smoking surface at all in a child custody determination?

Such matters are food for thought, and it is likely that many of them will assume center stage in states where family law considerations interact with legal pot consumption.

Source: Denver Post, "Parenting and pot: Colorado divorce lawyers' perspective on marijuana legalization," Alexandra White and Carolyn Witkus, Jan. 27, 2013

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