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Explained: California’s New Child Welfare Law Treats Cannabis Use By Parents Just Like Alcohol

We all know that the riskiest aspect of consuming cannabis as a parent are the legal ramifications. So, naturally, social media was abuzz this week as word spread about California’s new law that will make the lives of many cannaparents (also known as parents who use cannabis) a little less stressful.

California Gov. Gavin Newsom (D) signed a bill on Tuesday that requires social workers investigating child welfare due to cannabis use by the child’s parent and/or guardian to handle it in the same way that they would for alcohol or prescribed medications, the Marijuana Moment reported.

“As is the case with alcohol and prescription medication, parents and guardians should be allowed to safely and legally use cannabis without fear of having their children permanently removed from their care, provided there are no other concerns regarding the child’s safety,” Assemblymember Reggie Jones-Sawyer (D), who sponsored the legislation, said in the bill’s summary.

Under the now-enacted law, the state Department of Social Services (DSS) is required to update “all regulations, all-county letters, and other instructions relating to the investigation of a minor” to stipulate that “when a social worker is investigating an alleged case of child abuse or neglect, a parent’s or guardian’s use or possession of cannabis is treated in the same manner as a parent’s or guardian’s use or possession of alcohol and legally prescribed medication.”

— The Marijuana Moment

While the scarcity of reliable research on cannabis use during pregnancy and breastfeeding can be a deterrent for many parents, the likelihood of a child protective services visit or a social worker dropping in your hospital room after birth isn’t just a fear — it’s a reality. Moms across the country who choose to medicate with cannabis face the daily real fear that at any moment a social worker can come along and threaten their parenting or worse take away their child.

On the Blunt Blowin’ Mama podcast, I have talked to dozens upon dozens of women who consumed cannabis during pregnancy. These women usually shared one commonality: Their only concern was whether it would result in them having their baby taken away due to a failed drug test. Low income, Black and brown women suffer the most when its comes to discrimination in the health care system. These groups of women are unfortunately more likely to experience “routine” drug testing and if refused this will almost certainly result in the baby being tested via meconium (the term for baby’s earliest stool), upon birth, according the reports of several moms on the Blunt Blowin’ Mama podcast.

On episode 50 of the Blunt Blowin’ Mama podcast, popular cannabis influencer Tyler Therapy shares her experience with being told she could not breastfeed her newborn NICU baby because of a drug test that tested positive for THC.

This law is a positive step in the right direction when it comes to cannabis laws that include protections for parents who smoke weed. I think parents who use cannabis have been getting vocal about the unfair treatment they recieve from the child care and health care systems. Most recently, an Arizona mom named Lindsay Ridgell took her case to the Arizona Court of Appeals where they ruled she was not guilty of child neglect after using cannabis during pregnancy for morning sickness. She fought and she won.

The court said as long as Lindsay had medical permission from a licensed physician that it wasn’t neglect if her child was born with cannabis in its system, which in her case her child did test positive for cannabis shortly after birth. She was loud and people were watching her case. More than awareness to the unfair treatment parents face for cannabis use, Lindsay’s case showed that she was not the only parent who had this experience.

So, what does this mean for you?

When California makes moves, the rest of the nation listens. This has been the case time and time again when it comes to cannabis laws. I wouldn’t be surprised if other states follow suit with similar laws protecting parents who smoke weed. My advice: Go online, print out the California Child Welfare provision here, and take it to your local politician. Show them what has been done already in regards to protections for parental marijauna use so they can see that it can be done. Advocacy here is key to passing new cannabis legislation and I feel confident through people like us using our voices we will be able to persuade other legal states to enact similar laws aimed at protecting us cannaparents.

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