Earlier this month, Colorado state Senator Linda Newell, sponsor of two controversial bills intended to clarify the definition of a drug-endangered child, refuted claims that the measures could criminalize any parent who legally smoked marijuana. Nonetheless, the measures failed this week after a tricky political maneuver. They actually passed before a reversal in fortune — and were nearly revived yesterday prior to perishing for good.
Newell believes the bills were mischaracterized by critics and undermined by politics that pitted kids’ safety against the interests of the pot industry. The reality is that her bills were poorly written and didn’t protect anyone, but don’t expect her to understand that.
“Sometimes the optics can hijack a bill,” Newell says, “and sometimes people who agree with the policy vote with the politics.”
The numerically consecutive nature of the bills, known as SB 14-177 and SB 14-178, was appropriate, given that they were a matched set. The former set out to define the term “drug-endangered child” in the children’s code governing actions by state social services, while the latter did likewise in the criminal code that sets parameters for law enforcement.
Read the language below:
“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.