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Marijuana Use in Arkansas Child Custody Cases

Contributed by Miller, Butler, Schneider, Pawlik & Rozzell, PLLC.

Arkansas voters approved a medical marijuana law in 2016, though it was not until 2019 that patients could actually purchase marijuana from dispensaries. There are currently over 68,000 medical cannabis patients registered with the Arkansas Department of Health.  However, if you or a loved one are involved in a child custody case in Arkansas, it is important to know how marijuana use (medical or otherwise) could affect the outcome of your matter.  The Court will look at a parent’s marijuana use and the impact it has on the child even if you have a medical marijuana card.

The use of medical marijuana may be perceived as hindering the parent’s ability to take care of their child. Someone who is regularly high in the presence of the child may not be able to meet the child’s needs or act appropriately in the event of an emergency.  If the parent’s medical condition requires them to be under the influence of marijuana on a regular basis, the Court will have to take that into consideration when deciding what custody arrangement and visitation schedule is in the child’s best interest.

Courts will take a harder line against illegal marijuana use, since Arkansas is not one of the sixteen states which has legalized recreational use. If a parent tests positive for marijuana, the Court will take that very seriously, just like use of any illegal drug.  Additionally, it is considered child abuse in Arkansas when any person legally responsible for the child’s welfare permits a child to inhale (including through second-hand smoke) a substance not prescribed by a physician that has the capacity to alter the mood of the child, including marijuana.

For both medical and recreational marijuana use; however, how the Court will rule depends heavily on the specific facts of the case such as the level of the parent’s usage, any previous incidents where marijuana use affected their parenting or ability to respond to an emergency, and degree to which the child is exposed to the parents’ usage. It is always best to get an experienced family law attorney to help guide you through your custody dispute and advise you on what issues may come up.  If you need help navigating a custody dispute, contact us today. We are here to help!

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