Doug and Patricia Rohrick are embroiled in a custody battle over their great-granddaughter. The Colorado couple told reporters that the El Paso County Department of Human Services denied their requests to adopt 10-month-old Saya because they were medical marijuana patients.
Mr. Rohrick said that he and his wife have been open about their legal medical use since the beginning of the adoption process - and even cared for the child without incident for several months - and that it was not a problem until a DHS employee's intervention on Monday, June 8.
"They walked in with a cell phone in the air and handed it around to everybody and said the deputy director of DHS has stated that anybody with a medical marijuana card could not have custody of any children," Rohrick said.
The El Paso County DHS has released conflicting statements regarding their policy of placing foster children with medical marijuana patients. In response to Rohrick's claim, Executive Director Rick Bengtsson said there is no policy denying relatives custody because of marijuana use. Instead, he stated that custody decisions are made on a case-by-case basis with a premium on the child's safety and well-being.
However, in 2010, Bengtsson issued a directive to the El Paso County DHS clarifying the organization's policy as one of zero-tolerance. The directive stated: "EPC will not place children in licensed foster homes if a foster parent is using or intends to use medical marijuana, even though under state law they may do so legally."
Child custody problems have become increasingly common among medical marijuana patients and advocates, due to the intolerance of state and local officials who think that marijuana use automatically makes one unfit to raise children. Recent victims include California mother Daisy Bram and outspoken Idaho activist Lindsey Rinehart.