At a family law lecture yesterday, I came to the realization that most South Carolina family law attorneys believe there is a ground for divorce for habitual drug use. However a close reading of S.C. Code. Ann. § 20-3-10(4) makes the ground for divorce “Habitual drunkenness; provided, that this ground shall be construed to include habitual drunkenness caused by the use of any narcotic drug.” Note that it is narcotic drugs, not all drugs, that give rise to this ground for divorce. Thus not all drug abuse gives rise to a ground for divorce.
The medical definition of narcotic refers to agents that numb or deaden, causing loss of feeling or paralysis. Under this definition there is some debate whether cocaine should be classified as a narcotic or not. While cocaine is typically abused as a stimulant (which would make it the antithesis of a narcotic), it can also be used as a topical anesthetic in dentistry (which would seem to fit the definition of narcotic).
21 U.S.C. § 802 (17), the Federal criminal code section regarding controlled substances, provides a definition of narcotic that is basically limited to opiates, poppy straw, coca leaves and cocaine. The Drug Enforcement Administration provides a schedule of controlled substances that notes which ones are considered narcotic. Marijuana, Ecstacy, PCP and LSD are not listed as narcotic substances. Perhaps someone in the DEA likes jam bands?
While unclear which definition of narcotic S.C. Code. Ann. § 20-3-10(4) intends, it appears that marijuana, while it might meet the medical definition of a narcotic, does not meet the criminal definition of a narcotic. Meanwhile, cocaine meets the criminal definition but doesn’t necessarily meet the medical definition.
So my advice for drug abusing spouses in South Carolina who wish to avoid behavior that can give rise to a fault divorce: hit the bong, not the crack pipe! Or perhaps it’s hit the crack pipe, not the bong? Meanwhile, I await some intrepid South Carolina family law attorney’s quest to determine whether S.C. Code. Ann. § 20-3-10(4) refers to the criminal definition or the medical definition of narcotic.