One father wants to change the way family law and custody cases involving medical marijuana unfold in court—and life—according to this article published in the Las Vegas Review-Journal. Involved in a lengthy custody battle for his son, Keith Patton has been advocating that his medical marijuana usage should not automatically mark him out as an unfit father, which he feels has been the case. Patton contends that bias against marijuana and Patton’s personal use has resulted in Family Court Judge Gayle Nathan’s consistent rulings undermining his parental rights. Whether no Las Vegas attorneys would agree to represent Patton or he is satisfied to represent himself is unknown, but Patton is paving the way through media attention, if not through law.
In a family case based more on personal claims than definitive demonstrable compromised interests of the child, Las Vegas attorneys might admit that Patton has an interesting case, at least where at an intersection of social acceptability and execution of the law regarding marijuana usage. And while the details of his case are unknown to the public, there is enough media speculation surrounding it to generate comments both in favor and against Patton’s claim.
Las Vegas attorneys like Cam-Tu Dang would be likely to site the standard for Nevada custody cases, which is “what’s in the best interest of the child,” but determining that best interest is where it gets tricky. Patton is arguing that the limitations on his few, strictly supervised visits are what’s not in the best interest of his son, while the mother’s attorney and the family law court judge argue that it is proximity to Patton during periods of marijuana use that are the problem.
When the custody case began, Patton agreed to limit his use of medical marijuana (used to treat migraines and muscle spasms resulting from skull fracture in 2003) according to the terms laid out by Judge Nathan. However, after testing positive for marijuana several times during the course of the visitation schedules, Patton saw his visits restricted until they have been removed altogether. The case Patton is making in court is that bias against his usage should disqualify Nathan from adjudicating his case.
Las Vegas attorneys observing the case may be experiencing as much ambiguity about this case as the public seems to be. Medical marijuana was legalized by the Nevada Legislature through a bill last year that authorized 66 dispensaries, in which case medical marijuana should be treated like any other prescription drug. Some of the difficulty in doing that under the law may indeed be personal bias and lack of research about marijuana providing clear and tested information about its effects.
Still shrouded in mystery due to restrictions around conducting research on it, marijuana is difficult to argue one way or another. Whether, as Patton claims, it in no way compromises his ability to appropriately parent his son, or whether it is a potentially harmful and socially unacceptable is still a question being explored in American society, and in this case, in the context of a family custody court in Nevada.