On July 1, 2023, Maryland joined the growing list of states that legalized recreational marijuana use. The legalization of marijuana has far reaching implications for Marylanders, not only with regard to the criminal justice system, but also for the legal landscape surrounding child custody cases.

One of the most significant questions raised by the legalization of recreational marijuana is how it affects parental rights. In the past, a parent’s use of marijuana could be used against them in a child custody dispute. Following the legalization of recreational marijuana use, however, consumption of cannabis by a parent may no longer serve as adequate grounds to limit their custody rights, provided they use the substance responsibly and in compliance with state law.

Regardless of the legality of marijuana, Maryland courts must continue to prioritize the best interests of the child when determining custody arrangements. As such, they may still consider factors such as responsible use, child exposure to smoke or secondhand effects, and any impairment in a parent’s ability to care for their child in determining what is best for a child. Courts will likely expect parents to maintain a safe and drug-free environment for their children.

The legalization of marijuana also does not absolve parents from potential issues related to substance abuse. If a parent’s marijuana use becomes problematic or leads to neglect, it could still negatively impact their custody case. Courts may order drug testing or require evidence of responsible use to ensure the child’s safety.

Further, despite Maryland’s state-level legalization, marijuana remains illegal under federal law. This legal inconsistency could lead to complications in child custody cases, especially if federal agencies or authorities become involved. 

The legalization of recreational marijuana in Maryland has undoubtedly introduced a new layer of complexity to child custody cases. You can learn more about how recent changes in the law could impact your client’s rights and obligations during What Legalized Cannabis Could Mean for Your Maryland Child Custody Case on November 15, 2023 at 9:00 am as part of Hot Tips in Family Law presented during MSBA’s Legal Excellence Week. The panel discussion, featuring Erin Kopelman, Esq., of Lerch, Early, and Brewer, Krystle Acevedo-Howard, Esq., of Rodier Family Law, P.A. and Barbara Wood, Ph.D., MAC, will shed light on the potential implications of marijuana use in Maryland child custody cases in light of the new law.