Photo via iStock/ Kikovic
In Texas recently, a family was brought to court for using cannabis to treat their 18-year-old daughter Kara Zartler with severe autism. While the issue of parents and children using medical marijuana and facing state Child Protective Services (CPS) is a concern for families nationwide, this particular case was unique because the child was not a minor. The judge ultimately ruled that both her parents could remain her legal guardians and administer cannabis to her; however, the questions raised by the case still aren’t null in Texas, nor anywhere else.
“Even if there’s some kind of intellectual disability when the child turns 18, they’re still an adult with the ability to make their own decisions until the court makes a finding that they’re incapacitated,” explains Kara’s court-appointed attorney Ellen Williamson. “My role isn’t to actively contest the application [for guardianship], but to make the applicants prove they’re qualified. You’re asking the court to take away my client’s legal rights; she doesn’t have the ability to consent to that.”
In Kara’s case, despite marijuana’s grey area legal status (autism isn’t one of the approved conditions for Texas’ medical cannabis program), her cannabis treatment wasn’t enough to disqualify guardianship.
“The courts are vested with a ton of discretion, what they’re looking for is murky,” says Carolyn Witkus, a family law attorney with Griffiths Law PC in Colorado. For Kara, the court accepted her parents’ claim that cannabis was a last resort. “I think the line we see a lot of is [whether] there’s a legitimate therapeutic need; is there some kind of expert support; is the [cannabis] use consistent with the therapeutic need; are they just using THC and CBD, or just CBD?”
These questions apply both to children and parents whose cannabis use may be called into question