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Can You Lose Child Custody Over Tiny Pot Stash?

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By Stephanie Rabiner, Esq. on August 23, 2011 9:44 AM

Is smoking pot child neglect?

A number of New York parents found with small stashes of marijuana have been investigated for  child neglect despite no grounds for criminal prosecution.

Penelope Harris, one of those parents, had her niece taken away for more than a year ago, even though she had only possessed 10 grams of marijuana--not enough for even misdemeanor charges under New York law.

New York's Administration for Children's Services justifies investigating small-time marijuana users because marijuana use "can put children in danger of neglect or abuse," reports The New York Times.

While a number of cases show no actual neglect and are dropped, the agency claims that a deeper look often leads to evidence of other substance abuse and its consequences, such as malnutrition and a lack of school attendance.

However, those interviewed by the Times have seen cases where the mere possession of a small amount of pot has been designated as child neglect.

This isn't always going to be the case in every jurisdiction, as most state statutes define neglect as causing harm, or placing a child in imminent risk of harm.

Is smoking pot unto itself harmful to a child? Potentially, if done in its presence. Is having a small amount of marijuana in the house harmful to a child? Potentially, if the child has easy access to it.

Basically, whether or not we're talking about pot, child neglect laws are designed to prevent harm, and every person, just like every state, has a different definition of just what causes such danger.

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