Medical marijuana use isn't neccesarily child endangerment, says Court of Appeals

With all the media attention being devoted to medical marijuana these days, it's surprising that a Colorado Court of Appeals decision last week that medical marijuana use doesn't necessarily constitute child endangerment failed to capture more headlines.

After all, the ruling could have a major impact on medical marijuana users dealing with child custody matters.

The case involves David Lyman, who, as part of his divorce with Catherine Parr, agreed to a child-custody plan that required urinalysis tests to prove he wasn't using marijuana. But a week after signing this plan, Lyman got his medical marijuana license for back and knee pain from a motorcycle accident.

Lyman asked to ditch the urinalysis tests, but a magistrate judge refused to let him do so. Then El Paso County District Judge Rebecca Bromley went further, saying Lyman couldn't have any unsupervised parenting time with his kid until he proved unequivocally to the court that his medical marijuana wasn't harming his child.

But in a 2-to-1 decision last week, the Court of Appeals nixed Bromley's order, noting that the "record does not show that father's use of medical marijuana represented a threat to the physical and emotional health and safety of the child, or otherwise suggested any risk or harm."

The court didn't wade into whether or not medical marijuana may in some cases constitute child endangerment, nor did it allow Lyman, who was represented by marijuana attorney Rob Corry, to waive his urinalysis tests. But what it did decide medical marijuana, in and of itself, shouldn't be automatically equated with child endangerment. That means Lyman, and other parents, could theoretically argue in court that their constitutional right to medical marijuana overrides urine-testing requirements.

Will the courts agree with such an argument? That's a legal battle for another day.

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Joel Warner is a former staff writer for Westword and International Business Times. He's also written for WIRED, Men's Journal, Men's Health, Bloomberg Businessweek, Popular Science, Slate, Grantland and many other publications. He's co-author of the 2014 book The Humor Code: A Global Search for What Makes Things Funny, published by Simon & Schuster.
Contact: Joel Warner