As more states move towards more lenient pro-marijuana regulations, child-endangerment laws may come under scrutiny and change as well, according to The Associated Press.
"The legal standard is always the best interest of the children, and you can imagine how subjective that can get," said Jess Cochrane, who helped found Boston-based Family Law & Cannabis Alliance after finding child-abuse laws have been slow to catch up with pot policy, the AP reported.
In states like Colorado, where adult marijuana use is considered legal, pot is still treated like heroin and other Schedule I substances as they are under federal law, the AP reported. As a result, when it comes to defining a drug-endangered child, pot can't legally be in a home where children reside.
Two Democratic lawmakers tried to update the law by saying that marijuana must also be shown to be a harm or risk to children to constitute abuse, according to the AP.
Currently, no data exists to show how often pot use comes up in custody disputes, or how often child-welfare workers intervene in homes where marijuana is used, but in dozens of interviews with lawyers and officials who work in this area, along with activists who counsel parents on marijuana and child endangerment, the consensus is clear: Pot's growing acceptance is complicating the task of determining when kids are in danger, according to the AP.
The effort led to angry opposition from both sides: pot-using parents who feared the law could still be used to take their children, and marijuana-legalization opponents who argued that pot remains illegal under federal law and that its very presence in a home threatens kids, the AP reported.
"There are people who are very reckless with what they're doing, leaving marijuana brownies on the coffee table or doing hash oil extraction that might blow the place up. Too often with law enforcement, they're just looking at the legality of the behavior and not how it is affecting the children," said Jim Gerhardt of the Colorado Drug Investigators Association, which supported the bill, according to the AP.
The Colorado Court of Appeals in 2010 sided with a marijuana-using dad who lost visitation rights though he never used the drug around his daughter, the AP reported. The court reversed a county court's decision that the father couldn't have unsupervised visitation until passing a drug test, saying that a parent's marijuana use when away from his or her children doesn't suggest any risk of child harm.
Child-endangerment standards remain murky in Colorado, with wide disparities in how local child-protection officers and law enforcement approach pot, according to the AP.