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Will Marijuana Legalization Affect Child Custody in Maryland?

As of July 1, 2023, marijuana has been legalized for recreational use in Maryland, so parents may question whether this will impact a custody case. Unfortunately, the answer is not as clear as the change in state criminal law. As with many factors that a judge looks at to decide custodial rights in Maryland, legal marijuana use and possession isn’t necessarily a deciding factor. Still, it may be taken into account by the judge when ruling on child custody.

What Factors Matter in A Maryland Child Custody Case?

There are two different types of custody in Maryland – legal and physical. According to Maryland Courts, “Parties with legal custody (decision-making authority) make long-term decisions about education, health, religion, care, welfare and other important areas. Physical custody (child access/visitation) refers to where children live and how much time they spend with each parent.” Maryland law looks at the “best interests of the child” to decide on custody. The law sets out 16 factors for the court to consider to determine how this standard applies to a particular case. These factors include issues like the health and welfare of the child, the child’s physical and emotional security, and the parent’s ability to see to the child’s needs. These factors will be determined by the judge in a custody trial and even reviewed by a judge before approving a parental custodial agreement.

How Does Marijuana Use Impact the Best Interests of the Child?

With the legalization of marijuana, a parent can’t simply assert that the other parent uses it recreationally as a basis to deny custody. Instead, marijuana usage is somewhat like alcohol consumption – an adult activity that only impacts custodial rights when the health and safety of the child are in question. A parent would need to show that the other parent cannot meet the child’s needs because of marijuana usage. For example, if the parent can’t hold down a job, drives impaired, or otherwise puts the child at risk, it could impact their custodial rights. In addition, if a parent is doing more than using marijuana recreationally through some form of trafficking, the illegality of this activity would be relevant to a custodial dispute. Understanding what activities or failings might be perceived as a danger to the child’s welfare depends on many factors, and it would be a good idea to consult an experienced family law attorney.

Malech Law is located in downtown Bethesda, Maryland. For more than 25 years, Mr. Malech has provided aggressive and effective representation for his clients in Maryland and the District of Columbia. This year, he was selected as the Best of Bethesda 2022 Readers’ Pick for Best Family Law Practitioner. He has also been given the Lawyers of Distinction Award Recognizing Excellence in the Area of Divorce and Family Law for the past three consecutive years and has just been recognized as a Family Law Top 10 Attorney for 2021 by “Attorney and Practice Magazine.”

Visit Malechlaw.com or call (202) 441-2107.

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