The Arizona Department of Child Services recently updated its policy to clarify that the agency will not issue foster-care licenses to anyone who uses or possesses cannabis, even if legal under the state's medical marijuana laws. This decision is based on an anti-marijuana policy that the agency adopted in 2011, DCS spokesman Darren DaRonco said. DaRonco specified that DCS will not exclude potential foster parents that have been issued medical marijuana cards, but only those that actually use medical cannabis.
The policy update will be sent to all foster care providers, notifying them that even non-psychoactive cannabis derivatives like CBD are prohibited. DaRonco explained that the reasoning behind the prohibition was to keep the DCS in line with federal drug laws. “In cases of foster parent applicants who use or possess marijuana, with or without a card, DCS may not license them, due to the known federally controlled substance in the home,” he said. “We are simply complying with the law while keeping children safe to the best of our ability."
However, Arizona courts have made several rulings stating that the state's medical marijuana program is not in conflict with federal law. Just last week, the state's Supreme Court denied Maricopa County Attorney Bill Montgomery's attempt to appeal a case that could have prevented cannabis dispensaries from opening in the state.
Arizona is the only canna-legal state where legally registered medical marijuana users are prohibited from becoming foster parents. The state does not prohibit a child's natural parents from using medical cannabis, however. DaRonco said that the cannabis rules for children placed with distant relatives were also less restrictive. “A child may be considered safe with someone who uses medical marijuana if certain conditions are met,” he said.
Prospective foster parents have the choice of whether or not to disclose their use of medical cannabis to the DCS during the application process. The state database containing the personal information for all of its 120,000 registered patients cannot be searched by name, so DCS officials cannot easily check an applicant's medical marijuana status. Police or DCS staff would need to see the patient's card number to determine their current status with the program.