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Drug-endangered child bills fail

Drug-endangered child bills fail

Earlier this month, we examined two controversial bills about drug-endangered children that "could arguably make all cannabis-using parents criminals" according to our William Breathes.

Senator Linda Newell, who sponsored the measures, passionately disagreed with this interpretation. But yesterday, both measures failed after the state senate reportedly approved them only to reverse course.

"This certainly is not targeting marijuana in any way," Newell told us during our previous interview. "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."

State Senator Linda Newell.
State Senator Linda Newell.

As we've reported, 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.

We've included the complete documents below, but here's the main definition:

"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.

Are the phrases pertaining to threats against a child's welfare so sweeping that they would make it impossible for any parent to engage in legal cannabis use, home grows or the like without violating one or more of them? That was the conclusion of many in the marijuana community. But Newell insisted that her goal was clarification, not criminalization of legal activity by parents.

Drug-endangered child bills fail

"There's a disconnect between the criminal code and the children's code," Newell said. "Without a common definition between them, it is truly at the discretion of each individual person who interacts with a family to discern if there is a drug-endangered child or not.

"This bill would only come into play when there's a negative effect on a child," she added. "It's only when health and welfare of the child is negatively affected that it has any impact at all -- and it has nothing to do with safe homes that are legally growing or using marijuana or any prescription drugs."

These words didn't reassure critics, who continued to lobby against the measures -- and their opposition likely played a part in the legislation's ultimate defeat. The Associated Press maintains that lawmakers on both sides of the aisle felt the new measures didn't truly clear up confusing guidelines about what constitutes a drug-endangered child.

We've reached out to Senator Newell's office for a reaction and will update this post when and if we hear back. In the meantime, here are the bills, as well as a letter from Boulder marijuana business owners who objected to them.

Colorado Senate Bill SB 14-177

Colorado Senate Bill 14-178

Boulder Marijuana Business Owners Letter Opposing Senate Bills 177 and 178

Send your story tips to the author, Michael Roberts.

More from our Marijuana archive circa April 2: "Marijuana legislative roundup: Child-neglect bills, out-of-state pot enforcement on the table."


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