Colorado drug-endangered child bills threaten legal marijuana-using Colorado parents

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Colorado’s proposed Senate Bills 177 and 178 have the potential to seriously threaten parents who chose to occasionally use state-legal cannabis in their homes, even when children aren’t in any danger whatsoever.
The proposed bills would clarify a “drug-endangered child” with regard to child abuse and neglect cases. Both bills seem to be a second attempt from Sen. Linda Newell, a Democrat from Littleton, to create a hard definition of child endangerment that includes marijuana and doesn’t take into consideration Amendment 64’s passage or medical marijuana exemptions.


According to the language of the SB 178; it is considered child endangerment if, “in the presence of a child or on the premises where a child is found or reside…a person knowingly cultivates, produces, possesses, uses, or attempts to cultivate, produces, possess, or use a controlled substance, as defined in section 18-18-102(5)…when any such activity poses a threat of injury to the child’s life or health.”

“DRUG-ENDANGERED CHILD” MEANS ANY CHILD IN A CASE IN WHICH ANY OF THE FOLLOWING SITUATIONS OCCUR:
(a) IN THE PRESENCE OF A CHILD, OR ON THE PREMISES WHERE A CHILD IS FOUND OR RESIDES, A CONTROLLED SUBSTANCE…IS MANUFACTURED, DISTRIBUTED, CULTIVATED, PRODUCED, POSSESSED, OR USED, OR ATTEMPTED TO BE MANUFACTURED, DISTRIBUTED, CULTIVATED, PRODUCED, POSSESSED, OR USED, AND WHEN SUCH ACTIVITY THREATENS THE HEALTH OR WELFARE OF THE CHILD; OR
(b) A CHILD’S HEALTH OR WELFARE IS THREATENED BY UNRESTRICTED ACCESS TO EITHER A CONTROLLED SUBSTANCE OR ANY LEGAL SUBSTANCE CAPABLE OF CAUSING… A MENTAL OR PHYSICAL IMPAIRMENT; OR
(c) A CHILD’S HEALTH OR WELFARE IS THREATENED BY THE IMPAIRMENT OF THE PERSON RESPONSIBLE FOR THE CARE OF THE CHILD…IF THE IMPAIRMENT IS DUE TO THE USE OF EITHER A CONTROLLED SUBSTANCE…OR ANY LEGAL SUBSTANCE CAPABLE OF CAUSING A MENTAL OR PHYSICAL IMPAIRMENT; OR
(d) A CHILD TESTS POSITIVE AT BIRTH FOR EITHER A SCHEDULE I CONTROLLED SUBSTANCE…OR A SCHEDULE II CONTROLLED SUBSTANCE…UNLESS THE CHILD TESTS POSITIVE FOR A SCHEDULE II CONTROLLED SUBSTANCE AS A RESULT OF THE MOTHER’S LAWFUL INTAKE OF SUCH SUBSTANCE AS PRESCRIBED.

Section 18-18-102 of Colorado law clearly includes marijuana as a controlled substance, and makes no mention of any legal, allowable amount that parents can possess, grow or use.
Last year, Newell said her bill wasn’t intended to go after parents who provide a “very safe home” for children but still indulge in legal alcohol and marijuana use from time to time. Instead, she argued that her measure was intended to help strengthen laws against parents already charged with neglect or endangerment.
This year, Newell is saying the same thing about her bills — though the language in them makes it pretty clear that she’s not quite telling the truth (or simply doesn’t understand what she’s trying to get passed.)
“This certainly is not targeting marijuana in any way,” Newell, who’s co-sponsoring the bills with state Senator Andy Kerr, tells the Denver Westword. “I believe in the Constitution, and [marijuana use by adults 21 and over]is a constitutional right — and everybody continues to have that right. But if there are kiddos out there who need our help, we need to make sure they don’t fall through the cracks. We need something consistent and we don’t have that right now.”
But this isn’t it. Newell’s bill is up for a hearing later today in the Colorado legislature. For more, check over at our sister paper, the Denver Westword.

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