NYC lawmakers to ease off parents who use cannabis

New York City Council has signalled its intention to relax marijuana laws by pushing through a raft of new legislation focused around cannabis.

The authority gave the green light to two resolutions last week as part of a package of related changes to local legislation in anticipation of a global sea change in attitude toward cannabis.

The first new measure approved in chambers last week will see the NYC’s Administration for Children’s Services (ACS) drop its policy of flagging up marijuana possession by parents as a ‘risk of harm’ that could lead to a child being taken into care.

Moves towards legal changes in New York are being driven by the city council’s progressive Caucus, which urged the ACS to find “that a person’s mere possession or use of marijuana does not by itself create an imminent risk of harm to a child, warranting the child’s removal”.

Members highlighted disparities not only in the racial make-up of cannabis possession arrests in parents whose children were often then taken into care, but also in how many similar cases where the parents were abusing alcohol would not trigger a child welfare policy.

The ACS set out its stance on the issue a few days ago in response to an article about the resolution.

“The use of cannabis in and of itself does not equate with risk of harm,” a spokesman said.

Impact

“Current policy requires staff to assess the impact a parent’s substance misuse may be having on a child, regardless of whether the substance is alcohol, marijuana, etc.”

A second resolution passed in the council chambers called for the state to implement a bill to reform maternity hospital drug testing regulations.

Under current laws, if a pregnant woman tests positive for marijuana the hospital is obliged to file a report to the Statewide Central Register of Child Abuse and Maltreatment, thereby triggering a child welfare investigation.

The new measure’s intention, says the city council, is to offer better clarity to patients about their rights before any discussion of drug testing. Members noted that some women may wish to discuss cannabis use with a health professional, but the mere mention of its use could lead to a child welfare case being automatically opened.

“Women should be encouraged to share their medical history, including drug use, with their health care provider without fear of a child welfare case being opened,” the council’s report said.