Child Abuse and Cannabis Use: How a Prima Facie Standard Mischaracterizes Parental Cannabis Consumption as Child Neglect

Jasmine E. Harris, University of Pennsylvania Carey Law School

41 Cardozo L. Rev. 2761 (2020)


This Note explores the intersections of cannabis in the United States and family law in the United States, and how both subjects are ripe for a change. Part I examines the racially motivated history of cannabis prohibition in the United States and the current wave of change towards legalization across the country. It also discusses the use of prima facie standards in the law and inquires whether this is the appropriate standard to be used for parental marijuana usage, given the inconclusive studies on marijuana’s effects on users and parents. Finally, it turns to New York’s Family Court Act and its treatment of parental drug use, with an analysis of current case law in the area of marijuana use. Part II analyzes the harms from the current law, which include harm to parents and children, as well as harm to America’s ideal of the law as fair and consistent. Finally, Part III argues that parental marijuana use should not be prima facie evidence of child neglect without evidence of harm to the child. Part III uses statutes from other states to suggest several potential reforms to the New York Family Court Act, as well as a proposal for an expungement provision in future New York marijuana legislation for parents who have been irreparably harmed by the current law.