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Changing pot laws prompt child-endangerment review

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In this April 29, 2014 photo, mother of a child with cancer Sierra Riddle plays with her son Landon, age 4, left, and Landon’s friend Dahlia, age 3, who also has cancer, during a play date at Dahlia’s home in Colorado Springs. Landon and Dahlia’s parents, frustrated with mainstream medical treatments and facing the possibility of intervention by child protective authorities, moved to Colorado to treat their children using what some describe as cutting edge cannabis medication. Hundreds of parents in similar situations find themselves at the center of a debate about how far government can and should reach when parents push against legal boundaries to save their childrens’ lives. (AP Photo/Brennan Linsley)

In this April 29, 2014 photo, mother of a child with cancer Sierra Riddle plays with her son Landon, age 4, left, and Landon’s friend Dahlia, age 3, who also has cancer, during a play date at Dahlia’s home in Colorado Springs. Landon and Dahlia’s parents, frustrated with mainstream medical treatments and facing the possibility of intervention by child protective authorities, moved to Colorado to treat their children using what some describe as cutting edge cannabis medication. Hundreds of parents in similar situations find themselves at the center of a debate about how far government can and should reach when parents push against legal boundaries to save their childrens’ lives. (AP Photo/Brennan Linsley)

In this April 29, 2014 photo, mothers of children with cancer Moriah Barnhart, left, and Sierra Riddle play with their children Dahlia, age 3, and Landon, age 4, during a play date at Barnhart’s home in Colorado Springs. Both parents, frustrated with mainstream medical treatments and facing the possibility of intervention by child protective authorities, moved to Colorado to treat their children using what some describe as cutting edge cannabis medication. Hundreds of parents in similar situations find themselves at the center of a debate about how far government can and should reach when parents push against legal boundaries to save their childrens’ lives. (AP Photo/Brennan Linsley)

In this April 29, 2014 photo, mother of child with cancer Moriah Barnhart gives her three year old daughter Dahlia cannabis treatment with an oral syringe, at her home in Colorado Springs. Barnhart, frustrated with mainstream medical treatments and facing the possibility of intervention by child protective authorities, moved to Colorado to treat Dahlia using what some describe as cutting edge cannabis medication. Hundreds of parents in similar situations find themselves at the center of a debate about how far government can and should reach when parents push against legal boundaries to save their childrens’ lives. (AP Photo/Brennan Linsley)

In this April 29, 2014 photo, young cancer patients Dahlia Barnhart, right, and Landon Riddle, ages 3 and 4, play together at Dahlia’s home in Colorado Springs. Dahlia and Landon’s mothers, frustrated with mainstream medical treatments and facing the possibility of intervention by child protective authorities, moved to Colorado to treat their children using what some describe as cutting edge cannabis medication. Hundreds of parents in similar situations find themselves at the center of a debate about how far government can and should reach when parents push against legal boundaries to save their childrens’ lives. (AP Photo/Brennan Linsley)

In this April 29, 2014 photo, mother of child with cancer Moriah Barnhart watches her three year old daughter Dahlia at their home in Colorado Springs. Barnhart, frustrated with mainstream medical treatments and facing the possibility of intervention by child protective authorities, moved to Colorado to treat Dahlia using what some describe as cutting edge cannabis medication. Hundreds of parents in similar situations find themselves at the center of a debate about how far government can and should reach when parents push against legal boundaries to save their childrens’ lives. (AP Photo/Brennan Linsley)

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DENVER (AP) — A Colorado man loses custody of his children after getting a medical marijuana card. The daughter of a Michigan couple growing legal medicinal pot is taken by child-protection authorities after an ex-husband says their plants endangered kids.

And police officers in New Jersey visit a home after a 9-year-old mentions his mother’s hemp advocacy at school.

While the cases were eventually decided in favor of the parents, the incidents underscore a growing dilemma: While a pot plant in the basement may not bring criminal charges in many states, the same plant can become a piece of evidence in child custody or abuse cases.

“The legal standard is always the best interest of the children, and you can imagine how subjective that can get,” said Jess Cochrane, who helped found Boston-based Family Law & Cannabis Alliance after finding child-abuse laws have been slow to catch up with pot policy.

No data exist to show how often pot use comes up in custody disputes, or how often child-welfare workers intervene in homes where marijuana is used.

But in dozens of interviews with lawyers and officials who work in this area, along with activists who counsel parents on marijuana and child endangerment, the consensus is clear: Pot’s growing acceptance is complicating the task of determining when kids are in danger.

A failed proposal in the Colorado Legislature this year showed the dilemma.

Colorado considers adult marijuana use legal, but pot is still treated like heroin and other Schedule I substances as they are under federal law. As a result, when it comes to defining a drug-endangered child, pot can’t legally be in a home where children reside.

Two Democratic lawmakers tried to update the law by saying that marijuana must also be shown to be a harm or risk to children to constitute abuse.

But the effort led to angry opposition from both sides — pot-using parents who feared the law could still be used to take their children, and marijuana-legalization opponents who argued that pot remains illegal under federal law and that its very presence in a home threatens kids.

After hours of emotional testimony, lawmakers abandoned the effort as

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