New York Marijuana Laws May Cause Parents Some Worries

August 19th, 2011

Parents: could your past put your child custody in jeopardy? This is a question that residents of New York must carefully consider, due to the state’s laws regarding marijuana use and child neglect.

Under New York law, possession of small amounts of marijuana or even confessions of past cannabis use are grounds for child neglect charges. The New York Times reported a case in which a woman’s son was put in foster care for a week after she was found with 10 grams of marijuana, a small enough amount that prosecutors did not even charge her with a crime. Critics of the law think the problem is that legislation makes no distinction between posession of a hard drug like crack cocaine and posession of marijuana. Therefore, while the laws may be justified in the case of harder drugs, they seem out of place for marijuana use incidents. Currently, 12% of adults in New York report using marijuana at least once a year.

The implication of New York’s law is that marijuana use is tantamount to neglect. California, by contrast, requires evidence of harm from marijuana use before neglect charges can be filed. Lauren Shapiro, director of the Brooklyn Family Defense Project, says that 90% of the drug-related child neglect cases her firm handles are about marijuana. Therefore, if law enforcement has come to see marijuana use as less problematic than that of hard drugs, child neglect laws do not bear this out.

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