At noon today, the Colorado Children's Caucus will make a presentation to the state's general assembly entitled "How Drugs are Endangering Colorado's Children;" get details below.
As the program's title implies, the organization, featuring the likes of state senators Kevin Lundberg and Linda Newell, is worried about negative effects associated with the passage of Amendment 64.
Lundberg is a Republican, while Newell is a Democrat -- differing affiliations stressed by Katie Facchinello, the Tennyson Center for Children's strategic initiative direction, as well as the Colorado director for the Every Child Matters Colorado Campaign.
"This is really a bipartisan effort," Facchinello says. "We appreciate that the members of the caucus are trying to take the politics out of kids' issues."
Lundberg and Newell co-chair the caucus along with two representatives -- Janak Joshi, a Republican, and Jonathan Singer, a Democrat; to see the complete list of caucus members, click here. And their concerns don't begin and end with pot. Indeed, the calendar on the caucus website lists an additional six presentations to legislators through April on topics that range from child-abuse prevention to juvenile justice.
Yet A64 fallout tops the upcoming roster in part because of the challenges it may present to children in situations that may be ripe for neglect or abuse.
"We really need to think long and hard about what we're asking law enforcement and our child-protection staff in Colorado to do, and how they're going to respond to families and parents growing pot in their homes," Facchinello says. "We need to keep an eye out for how we're going to respond to protect our most vulnerable youth -- primarily our children growing up in foster care and the child-protection system."
She offers an example.
"Say an investigator goes into a home where you're responding to a community member who says a child is being neglected or, God forbid, even abused, and the parents hand you a story about how it's perfectly within their legal rights to grow marijuana in their home. How do we respond to that as a community -- particularly our caseworkers, who are responding to more than 80,000 reports of abuse and neglect in the state?"
Intended to bolster arguments that this scenario endangers children is a study by Dr. John Martyny of National Jewish Health showing severe health risks associated with mold produced in home grows. The study was first made public this past September in the context of lobbying against Amendment 64, and William Breathes, Westword's medical marijuana critic, dismissed its findings as "clown science." However, Facchinello sees the study as important and feels it didn't get the attention it deserved amid the flurry of arguments pro and con about A64 in the run-up to November's election, when it passed by a healthy margin.
We've included the study in this post.
Martyny will be taking part in today's presentation, along with Stacee Read and Sabrina Byrnes from the office of Colorado's Child Protection Ombudsman. In addition, a Q&A will feature pediatrician Dr. Kathi Wells; Emily Camp, the Child Protective Service's supervisor; Sergeant Jim Gerhardt of the Colorado Drug Investigators Association; and the Colorado Alliance for Drug Endangered Children's Jade Woodard. They'll be speaking from noon to 1 p.m. today at Capitol committee room 356.
At this point, Facchinello says it's too early in the process to suggest specific legislation related to concerns about child endangerment in the post-Amendment 64 environment.
"This is primarily about consciousness-raising right now," she says. "Caseworkers in our state, they're trying to help families struggling with a myriad of issues, and drugs are often prevalent in those families. So we're trying to raise awareness about this issue in light of what we're asking caseworkers to do."
Continue to read the aforementioned study.
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More from our Marijuana archive: "Marijuana grows: Bad-as-meth-labs study based on clown science?"