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Is Smoking Marijuana Child Endangerment?

More and more states are legalizing it, but legalization has its limits. And many parents are finding out the hard way that while the police may not prosecute you for recreational marijuana use, state child protective services may rely on federal pot prohibitions to remove children from homes, even where parents have a medical marijuana prescription.

And more and more parents are being arrested for marijuana-related child endangerment. A Wyoming mother and two men were arrested for child endangerment after marijuana paraphernalia was found in the home near children watching television, and a New York father faced similar charges after his son ate a pot gummy candy he found in the car. So does smoking marijuana, in a state where recreational use is legal, constitute child endangerment?

Cannabis, Cases, and Childcare

State laws on child abuse and endangerment can vary, from a failure to meet a child's basic needs (including food, shelter, clothes, medical treatment, and supervision) to any intentional, careless, or negligent act that results in imminent risk or serious harm to a child's health and welfare. If marijuana use precludes parents from providing for the child's needs or puts his or her health and welfare at risk, it may constitute child endangerment.

Not all kid-and-cannabis-related crimes are equal, and whether police are prone to file child endangerment charges will depend on the circumstances of the case. Police charged a father with endangerment after daycare workers found a small baggie of marijuana in his child's spare diaper, although neither the father nor the child was found to have smoked or ingested pot.

In a more serious case, a daycare was shuttered and its owner arrested on endangerment charges after a child was sickened by consuming pot at the facility. (Enforcement officials also found marijuana pipes, mouse droppings, improperly stored knives and no electricity or functioning toilets.) Again, no one was found smoking weed, but the presence of the paraphernalia and the marijuana the child ingested was enough.

And then there was the case of a mother who admitted to blowing marijuana smoke into her baby's mouth in an attempt to calm the child down, as clear-cut of an example as you'll find of smoking marijuana constituting child endangerment.

State and Federal Statutes

Marijuana laws vary widely from state to state, and any state or local decriminalization conflicts federal pot prohibitions. If you're a parent worried about how marijuana possession or use will affect child custody or welfare, contact a local attorney specializing in drug crimes.

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