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Can You Lose Custody Over CBD Medicine? This Utah Mom Did

Matt Weeks
older adult looking in medicine cabinets

As legalization slowly winds its way through the country, a dangerous legal foe has emerged: family court.

Alarmingly, parents may lose custody of their children, not because of physical abuse, emotional mistreatment, or neglect; but because of what’s inside their medicine cabinet. Before we hit the panic button, let’s look at what’s been going on. Several recent, high profile stories in the news have seen parents, who use hemp CBD products, face dire repercussions after failing a drug test.

A woman in Utah is attracting national headlines as one family court has separated her from her children because of her consumption of CBD. This is the non-intoxicating cannabinoid found in cannabis. Also present in industrial hemp, CBD is completely legal in Utah. And many do consume it to calm nerves and ease physical suffering. So, why lose custody?

Lose Custody For a Positive Test

The courts only see one thing: a positive drug test. Trace amounts of THC, the main intoxicating ingredient in cannabis, may be present in CBD oils. Again, this is still legal. The law allows up to 0.3% THC in CBD oil, noting that it’s not enough to cause psychoactive effects and it’s impossible to remove every smidgen of THC and still offer whole plant medicine.

To add insult to injury, the woman holds a physician’s recommendation, which explains to authorities that she has been prescribed CBD by her family practice physician.

Still, none of this is good enough for a judge in family court system. Instead of looking at the children’s lives, he’s more interested in inspecting family medicine cabinets.

image of regular looking medicine cabinets

Young Parents Report CBD May Promote Good Parenting

The Utah mother of two took CBD to ease her chronic nerve pain because she couldn’t get relief from prescribed opioids. Interestingly, many parents have turned to CBD oil in order to manage pain while still being present and functioning family members. It’s difficult to live with chronic pain, and this can be made even more impossible with the addition of opioids that zone one out. CBD doesn’t do that.

A report from Market Watch examined the recent trend of young parents turning to CBD to combat anxiety. Parents report they want to lower their anxiety threshold and just ‘be a good parent.’  The calming effects of CBD make young parents less prone to getting angry over spills, accidents, kids who refuse to eat, and other everyday toddler mishaps.

It also calms the nerves of millions of millennial moms, who have internalized the generation’s notorious anxiety, thanks in part to the bad economies, looming world catastrophes, and poor job prospects they’ve grown up with.

All in all, if having a little bit of CBD in the medicine cabinets can make new parents ready to spend an afternoon on the floor laughing and playing with their infants instead of worrying about the climate they’ll inherit, how the family will fare through the upcoming economic downturn, or getting upset that the TV remote is sticky, it sounds like a good trade. Certainly it’s not something to lose custody over.

How CBD May Cause Parents to Lose Custody

Despite all the good CBD can do, many courts still deem it a questionable substance. In California, parents have been threatened with losing their children for treating severe childhood disease with CBD. Now, the Utah’s mom case has many across the country worried that a crackdown on parental choice in medicine is close at hand.

In fact, lawyers, from places like South Carolina, are already advertising services to help parents fight the courts after they lose custody.

Back in Utah, the family court is struggling with how to interpret the laws that legalized CBD sales in the state. While CBD is definitely legal, the courts are having a hard time processing how to interpret a drug screen that tests positive for trace amounts of THC when the defendant claims to only be consuming hemp.

child about to take pills

What Parents Should Know About Hemp And Drug Tests

For many parents these days, CBD is a great deal. It can calm nerves, help maintain focus where it needs to be, dissolve a bit of stress, and even improve sleep. It’s also completely legal and relatively inexpensive.

But, that doesn’t mean there aren’t concerns. Some employers have threatened to fire employees over CBD use, the U.S. Navy has banned it, and the family court system seems stymied on how to proceed.

The good news is that it seems like very few people actually want to punish cannabis patients for having a stock of CBD in their medicine cabinets, but the newness of CBD and cannabis laws are producing growing pains in the judiciary.

The Utah courts have vowed to work with lawmakers to refine the law so that it’s crystal clear to anti-cannabis judges that parents who take CBD do not present a danger to their children. (Side bar: neither do parents that have THC medicine, but that’s a leap these courts are not ready to take.) No one should lose custody over an informed choice in safe medicine.

And, it’s important to remember, that CBD will does not show up on drug tests. The Utah mom’s case may be unique because she was initially part of a CBD study, which could have used different and un-tested kinds of CBD with THC content that exceeded regular limits. And some tests may be sensitive enough to pick up the trace amounts of THC in hemp.

So, while CBD is definitely safe for parents, and better than drinking a few beers in front of your children, it’s not without risk. Those risks all come from an ill-informed judiciary. Luckily, this shouldn’t last long.

Matt Weeks

A writer living and working in Athens, GA, Matt's work has appeared in various newspapers, books, magazines and online publications over the last 15 years. When he's not writing, he hosts bar trivia, plays in local bands, and makes a mean guacamole. He holds an undergraduate degree in journalism and a master's degree in organizational theory. His favorite movie is "Fletch."

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