With the passing of new legislation in 2018, cannabis use has become legalized for any adult over the age of 18 years old. How will this legalization have an impact in the Family Law setting specifically in custody and parenting disputes?
When assessing custody and parenting the Court has a primary concern of what is the best interests of the child and assessing cannabis use is no different. Presently there is no consensus of the impact cannabis has on a person’s capacity to parent, numerous scholarly articles have been written in which cannabis is seen as either the “devil’s lettuce” or a “miracle herb”.
In the case of 2015 Platt v. Hutzal 2015 ABQB 795 the parties have a three and half year old child in which the father was concerned of the mothers parenting time. The mother lived alone at the time and frequently used marijuana, including medical marijuana and was also epileptic. In this case Justice J.B Viet stated the following:
“Assume that some level of marijuana ingestion does not impair a person’s ability to parent just as some level of alcohol ingestion does not impair a person’s ability to parent…”
“If a person can keep a job, they presumably are at least not heavily impaired during working hours. Where, as here, a parent is living on their own and is not employed, but is an acknowledged, regular, user of a drug such as marijuana, it is very difficult to assess the level of that person’s potential impairment”
In this case it was ultimately decided that the child’s best interests require that the court receive more information about the level of her impairment while taking medically prescribed marijuana and that, in the interim, the mother’s parenting time with her daughter be supervised by a sober adult.
Contrast this with the case of D.G. v. A.M. , 2013 BCPC 134 in which the father acknowledged daily use of marijuana. However, he explained to the Court that he uses marijuana only after the child has gone to sleep and never uses it to the point where it interferes with his ability to care for the child. The father was granted day to day parenting.
In the case of Delwo v. Giroux, 2012 ONSC 5529 the Court considered the Fathers actions related to marijuana and how they impacted the child. It was found that the father had willfully allowed a child to witness marijuana use and considered this bad parenting. The Court found that restrictions imposed on the fathers parenting time were appropriate.
Currently, there is no precedent when it comes to cannabis use and parenting as evidenced by the cases referenced above. Ultimately the Courts will decide on a case by case basis what is in the best interests of the children. It will be interesting to see if legalization will change the attitude the Courts have towards cannabis. If you do plan to indulge and have children take a look at the following webpage the Government of Canada has put together in regard to cannabis and parenting: