The Cannabis Control Authority1 sounds like a sci-fi title, but it is a real Virginia agency, courtesy of the General Assembly and then-governor Northam. Since July 1, 2021, every Virginian has had the right to grow up to four marijuana plants2 and possess up to an ounce of marijuana. The law also hastens expungements of past pot convictions. How does legalized marijuana affect your child custody matter?
The Simple Answer: Yes and No
Yes, you can now toke up in your own home without fear of arrest, but no, you cannot push the pot envelope, since many aspects of drug culture still remain illegal. If you are interested, you can get more information from the state’s own Cannabis in Virginia website.
We are interested less in the fine points of edibles and weighing cannabis seeds and more interested in the children in your care.
Weed Rather Not
Judges love precedents set by other judges. They are not keen on setting precedent themselves. This is not out of a fear or misunderstanding of the law. Setting a legal precedent invites challenges, whereas relying on time-tested rulings leaves little wiggle room.
The recreational marijuana law is so new, it has had little time to get rolled up into a child custody case (and yes, we will be making marijuana jokes throughout). Judges have not been asked to rule on family law matters based exclusively on the new law.
While all courts strive for impartiality, judges are allowed to have their own opinions. They often exercise those opinions in their rulings. In one jurisdiction, a judge may view marijuana use with some leniency, while in another jurisdiction the judge may want the evidence weighed out to the milligram (there it is).
A judge may order either party to submit to a court-mandated, court-supervised drug test if evidence is presented that marijuana was used in the presence of a child, marijuana is within reach or sight of a child, or a parent was under the influence of marijuana when she or he was supervising the child (we mean you were observably baked; stoned; high).
Why give your ex-spouse ammunition to use against you in your child custody case? Even if your marijuana use comes down to a “he said-she said” argument, the suspicion that you are toking up in front of the kids is a strike against you.
Virginia judges will likely follow the same methodology as with accusations of alcohol misuse. While a social drink in the right environment is entirely legal, getting blotto in front of your toddler is a bad, bad, bad idea. Similarly, while recreational marijuana use is legal within the state, counter-arguments against your use during a child custody battle readily come to mind:
- Your employer may not allow it
- Random drug tests
- Charges of driving while drugged
You also cannot overlook the message you send your impressionable children, even if you think you are using marijuana responsibly. You are a role model, and they may take away a completely skewed view of drugs by observing your behavior.
The Blunt Truth
No Virginia family law attorney can reliably predict how a particular judge will rule on your child custody case if evidence is presented that you legally indulge in marijuana. It is simply too new a legal environment.
The blunt truth is, you take a huge risk by giving the opposing party (your ex-spouse and his/her attorney) your unforced error of extensive pot use, especially in the presence of your kids.
So what can you do? You can make absolutely certain that marijuana plays no part in your life for the duration of your child custody battle. You can self-check your pot use so that you are completely sure you never expose your children to any aspect of cannabis culture. You can keep your house spotlessly clean. No cones, joints, doobies, fatties, blunts, edibles, crutches; nothing.
You can also be completely truthful with, and attentive to, your family law attorney:
- Inform your attorney of any past incidents regarding drug and alcohol use, such as arrests for driving under the influence or police calls on reported domestic violence
- Update your attorney on your current behavior
- Listen to your attorney’s advice on choices and behaviors appropriate for your children to see
- Talk to your attorney about the jurisdiction for your case and the tendency of the judge in that jurisdiction
- Take your attorney’s advice and follow it — after all, you are paying for every word
Your child custody case will eventually end. Your role as a responsible parent is a lifetime high of its own. Do things wrong and you could lose not only your child custody case but contact with your own kids. The right path with your child custody case and your recreational marijuana use could be the difference between being blazed and being burnt.
Please contact us today at The Firm For Men so that we can provide you the strongest legal protections in your Virginia custody case. You may also reach us at (757) 383-9184 to schedule an appointment with one of our experienced, dedicated Virginia attorneys.