LA County Dept of Children & Family Services vs Paul M.

Appellate Opinion Grants Marijuana Dad Unsupervised Parenting Time


In California, a medical marijuana smoking father ran into trouble with the Los Angeles County Dept of Children & Family Services. The DCFS interpreted his marijuana use as a sign of neglect, believing the man's 18-month old son was "at risk" of physical harm.

On appeal, the California Court of Appeals did not find that the DCFS proved their case with any evidence that the Dad was a substance abuser. The soon-to-be-published opinion is significant to the extent that it distinguishes between use and abuse. In making that distinction, the case adopts the following definition of substance abuse:

[a] maladaptive pattern of substance use leading to clinically significant impairment or distress, as manifested by one (or more) of the following, occurring within a 12-month period: (1) recurrent substance use resulting in a failure to fulfill major role obligations at work, school, or home (e.g., repeated absences or poor work performance related to substance use; substance-related absences, suspensions, or expulsions from school; neglect of children or household); (2) recurrent substance use in situations in which it is physically hazardous (e.g., driving an automobile or operating a machine when impaired by substance use); (3) recurrent substance-related legal problems (e.g., arrests for substance-related disorderly conduct); and (4) continued substance use despite having persistent or recurrent social or interpersonal problems caused or exacerbated by the effects of the substance (e.g., arguments with spouse about consequences of intoxication, physical fights). (See DSM-IV-TR, at p. 199.)

So there you have it. If you have a case in family court where a parent has come under scrutiny, either by the other parent, or the state, be sure that allegations of "substance abuse" are substantiated. Legal pot smoking should not be sufficient to trigger "supervised parenting time."

That's our take on this issue over here at Clarkston Legal.

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Published In: Criminal Law Updates, Family Law Updates

Reference Info:Decision | State, 9th Circuit, California | United States