Father wins medical marijuana custody battle | News
A Spokane County Superior Court judge has sided with a medical marijuana user who has been fighting to get custody of his 16-month-old daughter.
Billy Fisher says his ex-wife ran away when she was pregnant, and it wasn't until months later that he found out that his daughter had been placed in state care. When Fisher found out, he traveled from Boise to Spokane to get his daughter, but he says the mother's boyfriend showed up with a birth certificate which falsely listed that man as the birth father. A paternity test proved that Fisher was the father.
Lilly was born in October of 2012 and he was finally able to meet and hold his daughter for the first time, through a supervised visit, this past April. He spent the next several months trying to gain custody of his daughter.
As part of the process, Fisher was ordered by the state to undergo several evaluations, and one of them ordered that he undergo an inpatient chemical dependency treatment as a condition of getting custody of his daughter. But he argued that he should not have to choose between the marijuana and his daughter because people who take prescription narcotics or drink do not have to do the same, and because under Washington's medical marijuana law, a parent cannot be denied custody just because they have a prescription for marijuana.
"This is something that needs to be brought up. We need to explore the impact of impairment. You're able to know if somebody's drunk when they drink a beer, but when somebody smokes, is it too much or is it not enough - where is the line that we draw?" Fisher asks.
Fisher was working in construction in early 2007 when he fell off of a 10-foot foundation wall and landed on rebar, damaging his spine. He says with the variety of narcotics that doctors were prescribing, he could not function.
"With all those pills being taken at the same time, I couldn't even get off the couch to answer my door when my sister came to tell me her son had died. That's how high I was," he says, adding that when he smokes marijuana, the pain goes away.
"When I smoke a bowl and my pain goes away, or I eat a couple of cookies and my pain goes away, I'm able to get up and walk around and be just as functional if not better. That's a big difference. This medicine is a medicine, and I have been prescribed by a doctor," Fisher says.
The amount of marijuana that Fisher uses depends on his pain level. "Some days I don't even use it and some days I do. It just depends on how much I've done on the previous day. I would say at the most, two bowls a day on certain days."
Fisher says he hasn't been stoned in years and is not smoking marijuana to the point of being 'baked.' "Oh hell no. That was what we were trying to explain to the judge. There is a very stereotyped game that they are playing. They see the TV, they see "That 70s Show," they see Cheech and Chong, you see that kind of stuff and you think automatically that I'm getting baked off my ass. But in reality I'm smoking enough to get pain relief. As soon as I get the pain relief, I am done and it does not get me to where I'm falling over stupid, forgetting everything, or nothing like that," he says.
At one point during his fight for custody, Fisher says the state threatened to place Lilly up for adoption and terminate his parental rights if he did not stop fighting them. "Two weeks later, they put her up for adoption, and I was like 'oh hell no!' So I went and did an appeal and did a revision hearing," he says. And, he says, he won.
"The judge looked right at me and she goes, 'you know what, you are about one of the best fathers I've ever met. And I'm so proud of you for not laying down and taking it,'" Fisher says, adding that he thought to himself, 'is this really happening?'
Fisher says the judge said he did exactly what he was supposed to do, and that she told him, 'Mr. Fisher, you've done everything that we've asked you to do and then some, and you know what? You don't deserve this - you've never deserved to have your daughter taken away from you.'
"The State did not provide any evidence as to what level of Marijuana use would impair parenting functions. There was some discussion by the Commissioner as to what level would constitute impairment for a driving offense, but there was no evidence presented as to that issue either," Spokane County Superior Court Judge Ellen Clark wrote in her order on December 20th.
Lilly was home for the first time yesterday for a visit, Fisher says. "It was just awesome. And the social worker that was there was like, 'we need to get this little girl home,'" Fisher says. He adds that there is discussion that Lilly might be home for good this weekend, although the state has until February 14th to return her to her dad. He says Lilly has been in foster care with an elderly couple, who Fisher says are 86 and 78-years-old.
Facebook page for Billy & Lilly: https://www.facebook.com/fight4lilly
Website for Billy & Lilly: http://www.momsformarijuana.org/blogs/blog1.php/billy-lilly-fisher.