Jan. 16 2014 12:00 AM

State Sen. Rick Jones says he’s protecting children, while medical-marijuana advocates cry foul over proposed child-custody bill

Rick Jones
Thursday, Jan. 16 — State Sen. Rick Jones, R-Grand Ledge, introduced legislation Wednesday that could halt a parent’s or guardian’s use of medical marijuana if a judge determines that it’s “not in the best interest” of their children.

While Jones says the legislation is in response to police reports he’s heard about children accessing their parents’ cannabis, medical-marijuana advocates says it strips the rights afforded to parents under the 2008 law.

“The good news is that this is so egregious, maybe people will believe us now” that medical-marijuana patients’ rights are under attack from the Republican-led Legislature, said Charmie Gholson, founder of the advocacy group Michigan Moms United.

The bill would allow judges to access medical records to determine whether the parent or guardian has a qualifying condition to legally use cannabis and to determine the extent of the doctor/patient relationship. The bill also would allow judges to order an “independent medical evaluation” to determine if using cannabis is necessary. Ultimately, the judge could order the parent to stop using medical marijuana if it’s found to harm a child.

The bill was referred to the Senate Judiciary Committee, which Jones chairs. He said it is the first draft and he is open to ways to amend it.

“This is not an attack on anybody’s rights,” Jones said. “It’s an attempt to protect children.”

Jones said the legislation is largely complaint-driven and judges could step in if there are reports of a child being in danger.

Jones said his bill “has nothing to do” with a case from September in which Lansing residents Steve and Maria Green temporarily lost custody of their 7-month-old daughter Bree after allegations that they had smoked marijuana in front of the child. An Ingham County attorney referee said the Greens’ growing marijuana in the home, albeit legally, also presented an inherent danger and susceptibility to criminal activity.

Joshua Covert, a local attorney who represented the Greens, called the bill “troubling” because it’s based on a “speculative danger.” He says it gives the court a chance to take away rights provided to parents in the Medical Marihuana Act of 2008.

“It no longer has to be substantiated,” he said. “It’s troublesome to me that the possibility of danger could be enough for the courts to step in. I think that’s a problem.”

A section in the Medical Marihuana Act on patient protections states: “A person shall not be denied custody or visitation of a minor for acting in accordance with this act, unless the person’s behavior is such that it creates an unreasonable danger to the minor that can be clearly articulated and substantiated.”

Moreover, Covert said, “Any kind of substance could present a danger if not done appropriately,” citing alcohol or prescription drugs.

“It seems to me he’s singling out medical-marijuana patients and trying to take the fundamental right they have to raise their own children,” Covert said. “Part of me wonders if this is a way to circumvent some of the progress some of these cases have made, like the Greens.”

The Southfield-based Komorn Law Office, which specializes in medical-marijuana cases, had this to say on its website today:

It’s “a shocking example of the lengths some of our government officials will go to to eviscerate the Medical Marijuana Act. … In other words, it gives a judge the power to review an individual’s medial record and deem whether or not they should be allowed to use cannabis to treat their condition. It is a shocking abuse of power and violates medical marijuana patients’ Civil Rights.”