Medical marijuana can lead to problems in custody cases Meaghan Daniels Vanguard Staff Medical marijuana is a hot topic in the news. People are always hearing about whether it should be legalized in more states or if the legalization should be revoked. There is a side effect from the use of medical marijuana that people are not aware of. Medical marijuana use is viewed negatively in courtrooms during custody battles. Nicholas Pouch of southwest Washington runs an organic farm and glassblowing studio. In 2007, Pouch’s former partner tipped off a drug task force who raided his property, according to The Oregonian. The criminal charges were dropped, but his former partner still cited the incident in an effort to win custody over their two boys. Pouch has only been able to see his children under supervised visits twice a month at a neutral house in Olympia. Pouch uses medical marijuana to treat pain from Carpal Tunnel Syndrome aggravated by glassblowing, and a shoulder that frequently pops out of its socket. Pouch is in complete accordance with the law. According to several states’ laws, including Washington’s, complying patients “shall not be penalized in any manner, or denied any right or privilege.” If this were held to be true in Washington, Pouch’s former partner would not have been able to cite his medical marijuana use in a custody battle. An appeals court in Colorado last month ruled that medical marijuana use is not necessarily a reason to restrict a parent’s visitation. Clearly that is not the case in Washington. If there is no evidence of abusing their legal right to use medical marijuana, then they should not lose custody or visitation rights of their children. Since when does abiding by the law make someone an unfit parent? The Marijuana Policy Project notes that in Michigan and Maine, two of the 14 states with medical marijuana laws, patients won’t lose custody or visitation rights unless the patient’s actions endanger the child or are contrary to the child’s best interests. People cite psychological disorders in an effort to win custody, saying that the opposing party is unstable. It is rare to see someone use the medicine people are taking to remedy those disorders in custody cases. People who use medical marijuana, like Pouch, are using it to control and manage their pain. If it is legal in their state, why are they out of line? Is it harder for medical marijuana patients to measure the intake of pot than for someone with bipolar disorder to measure their medicine intake? Seattle lawyer Sharon Blackford has said that urine tests can be an effective way of measuring how much marijuana a patient is using to help determine whether they are abusing it or if they are under too much of an influence to provide for their children. Ultimately, each case is different. In this specific Washington case, the court should have looked at all of the facts instead of condoning a woman for tipping off a drug task force to medical marijuana. If the criminal charges were dropped, it should have had no place in the custody case. Pouch should not be punished for abiding by the law. Medical marijuana should not be a deciding factor in custody cases. In fact, it should not even be cited as a negative effect in custody cases unless there is evidence of abuse. If no such evidence exists, then the point is moot.