Legal or Not, Using Marijuana can Bring CPS to Your Door

November 9, 2014 Abuse and Neglect Attorney

The story of little Bree Green stirred up significant public outcry, both for and against the use of medical marijuana with regard to parenting. Maria Green, uses cannabis to ease the symptoms of multiple sclerosis, and her husband Steve consumes it to manage his epilepsy. But when the Greens became engaged in a custody dispute with Maria’s ex husband, he reported their legal use of medical marijuana to CPS. Their daughter was then removed from the Green’s custody.

Michigan’s medical marijuana law specifies that legal users cannot be denied custody of their children “unless the person’s behavior is such that it creates an unreasonable danger to the minor that can be clearly articulated and substantiated,”. But the Greens fought a pitched battle against a system that had labeled them abusive and neglectful parents for using marijuana before finally regaining custody of their daughter, Bree.

Another story has recently come to light in which another Michigan-based family was forced to take on CPS for the same legal reasons. Maggie, who has asked that her full name not appear in the media, apparently stopped her legal use of medical marijuana for several months before she and her husband began trying to have a baby.

However, after becoming pregnant, Maggie was diagnosed with hyperemesis gravidarum, which is medically defined as “extreme, persistent nausea and vomiting during pregnancy that can lead to dehydration”. When her only apparent option was an expensive medication with possible side effects for her baby, Maggie tried what several other moms had suggested. That is consuming a small quantity of cannabis.

“I gained some weight. Things got back to normal.” she says. But when her plans of a natural home birth were put on hold due to complications, Maggie was forced to have her child at a local hospital. However, days of unproductive labor at home before getting medical assistance were considered a red flag. The medical staff assigned to her care ran blood tests.

When her newborn tested positive for THC, the hospital staff reported Maggie to CPS. A months-long investigation began that almost resulted in Maggie losing custody of her new baby. In the end, after countless interviews and prolonged scrutiny, she was required to sign a document promising that she would not breastfeed her son in case her breast milk contained THC.

Dr. Carl Hart, a psychiatry professor at Columbia University says that multiple studies have shown that marijuana use during pregnancy is not really any worse than drinking a glass of wine or smoking a cigarette. “When we think about women smoking tobacco, we don’t want that to happen, but we don’t take their children away.” he explained.

Bob Wheaton, a spokesman for Michigan’s DHS, says that currently Michigan’s medical marijuana laws don’t specifically address the use of substances by parents. “Our policy just says use or abuse of substance in and of itself does not constitute child abuse or neglect … CPS has to determine if the use interferes with childs’ safety; whether the parent can safely care for the child”.  He has also said that the department is currently “…taking a look at the policy and considering drafting policy that would address medicinal marijuana.”