The Complicated Relationship Between Marijuana and Parenting

With cannabis being legal throughout the state of California, there’s no doubting the growing regularity with which its residents partake.

Some of those individuals are parents who make up 54% of Americans that smoke cannabis, while 30% have children under 18. On top of that, 79% believe it to be socially acceptable. Yet there’s still a stigma attached to marijuana, right or wrong. This stigma impacts the way child protective services social workers view the use of marijuana by someone who is caring for a child.

For instance, women using CBD during pregnancy can see their parental rights suspended on the basis of child neglect allegations.

But can a law enforcement officer or social worker even discern whether a parent or caretaker has been using cannabis? Furthermore, does marijuana use negatively impact a person’s ability to parent? In this article, we’ll discuss these questions and examine the implications involved.

Can a Social Worker Know That You’ve Been Using Marijuana?

In a double-blind study, police officers were observed as they attempted to detect drug impairment as well as what drug led to the state of impairment or inebriation. (David Shinar, Edna Schechtman, “Drug identification performance on the basis of observable signs and symptoms,” Accident Analysis and Prevention 37 (2005) 843-851.)

When it came to cannabis, these officers could only identify if a subject was impaired by a drug after using marijuana 49% of the time.

However, the officers were only able to identify marijuana as the cause of impairment at a rate of 10%.

Given this result, unless a social worker sees you smoking or ingesting marijuana, chances are they’ll have a tough time proving that you were impaired. Therefore, a social worker’s inkling that you have been using marijuana shouldn’t serve as evidence that you are guilty of neglect or an unfit caregiver.

Childcare Agencies Still Taking a Hard Stance on Marijuana

Child protection agencies throughout the country have taken children from their parents because of marijuana use. Anecdotally, this had happened when there were no signs of neglect or abuse. In that instance, the childcare worker in question even violated state and federal statutes to deem the parent unfit.

This instance proves that the legal system does not support marijuana use the way others have. Though marijuana is becoming more legally and socially acceptable, even the child protective services in Canada (where cannabis is legal) treat the substance like any other drug.

Does Marijuana Use Diminish Your Parenting Ability?

We have not seen a study that demonstrates that active marijuana use tends to diminish a person’s ability to care for a child.

It is becoming a more frequent occurrence for professional, family-oriented parents to be using marijuana. It may even be more common for new moms to use cannabis to unwind as they adjust to the new challenges of parenthood.

It’s unclear whether such use would even be beneficial due to marijuana’s medicinal properties. We can’t cite any direct evidence that marijuana has a positive impact on parenting, but there are some who think that’s the case, and that notion may be gaining credibility.

For some parents, marijuana use is a preferable alternative to an after-work cocktail. This may be because arguably marijuana shows far less harm to one’s brain-health than alcohol.

Since alcohol is socially, widely accepted as a way to unwind, perhaps cannabis may become viewed as a viable alternative for doing the same.

The Signs of Marijuana use are Very Vague

Here’s a list of the physical signs of marijuana use, as per American Addiction Centers:

  • Red eyes
  • Poor muscle coordination
  • Delayed reaction times
  • Increased appetite
  • A sudden shift in mood from tense to relaxed
  • Abrupt forms of anxiety, panic, and/or hallucinations

This evidence, though, is all circumstantial. For instance, red eyes could be a result of allergies or due to tiredness. If you’re working hard to provide for your children, there’s a chance you’ll get tired enough to have red eyes.

Also, increased appetite is certainly not reason enough to decide someone has been using marijuana, nor is any form of anxiety, panic, or hallucinations. These symptoms can be a result of other factors and are all far too vague to pin on cannabis impairment. A growth in someone’s appetite can be due to physical exertion. At the same time, mental health symptoms mentioned could be caused by another external trigger.

What this all means is, if you’ve been accused of child neglect on the basis of marijuana use around your child, you may have good cause to fight the allegation.