Marijuana legislative roundup: Child-neglect bills, out-of-state pot enforcement on the table

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State lawmakers are working on six bills related to marijuana during this legislative session, not including the proposed budgets for the marijuana regulation divisions of the Department of Revenue and the Department of Public Health, which also have to be approved by the general assembly.

Among them are two that could arguably make all cannabis-using parents criminals and another that funnels Colorado tax dollars to out-of-state law enforcement. Read on for our roundup.

(Click over to the state legislative site for the full text of all the bills below.)

Senate Bills 177 and 178 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."

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.

House Bill 1196 would create a "marijuana impacts task force" to "evaluate the impacts that the cultivation, testing, sale, consumption and regulation of retail marijuana" have on local government budgets and services. The task force will comprise seventeen people -- mostly government officials and law enforcement, but with a few "marijuana community" members thrown in, to be decided by the local chapter of NORML (an organization that has pretty much been on the sidelines of any action in Colorado for the last few years) and an industry representative appointed by the local UFCW chapter, which represents a minority of dispensary workers statewide.

House Bill 1209 would create a "marijuana diversion prevention grant program," which would award money to the Colorado State Patrol to fund efforts to prevent marijuana from being taken out of state; it would also grant funding to law enforcement agencies in states that border Colorado. The money comes from tax revenue generated from Colorado retail sales of cannabis. The bill has a hefty co-sponsorship, with eight members of the House signing on so far. 

Senate Bill 37 would prevent people with federal-assistance cards from withdrawing cash from cash machines at medical and recreational pot shops and strip clubs. The measure was proposed following a January 2014 report by Fox31 showing that welfare money was withdrawn from nineteen dispensaries statewide.

Continue to read more about the latest marijuana-related legislation in Colorado. Senate Bill 129 would clarify Colorado law regarding minors, putting marijuana consumption and possession under the same umbrella as underage possession or consumption of alcohol, making it a petty offense. First-time offenders would face a fine of up to $100 and be required to attend substance-abuse classes. It would also "encourage" the state to add roadside-impairment courses at basic academy training for police officers. A third part of the bill defines open-container laws with regard to pot, forcing the prosecution in a case to show that the container had a "broken seal," that the contents were partially removed, and that there was evidence pot was being consumed in the car itself.

Two bills have already been approved, and there are likely to be more coming -- including one that would restrict caregiver rights to grow for more than five patients.

House Bill 1142, which was signed into law last month, was a catch-all. First, it changed the packaging requirements for medical marijuana and edibles; everything must now be sold in an "opaque and re-sealable exit package" or container. The effect was immediate, and many dispensaries and recreational pot shops are requiring patients to put everything into heavy, zip-lock packaging before walking out the door. In addition, the bill protects dispensary employees from being charged with a crime if they mistakenly sell herb to a minor using a believable fake ID. It also allows employees to confiscate fake IDs from people, much like bar and liquor-store employees can. Finally, HB1142 clarifies what a "locked space" means in relation to a home grow: If there are people under 21 living in a house, the room where ganja is grown must be locked.

The other bill that has been signed into law, House Bill 1229, adjusted fingerprint requirements for people applying for a state retail license. Fingerprints must be submitted to the Colorado Bureau of Investigation, which will then send them to the Federal Bureau of Investigation for a background check.

Finally, Senate Bill 155 would create a grant program to fund health research as it relates to medical marijuana efficacy. It would order the state attorney general to request federal permission for state universities to grow and study marijuana. Bill author Pat Steadman says the goal is to develop further therapeutic uses of cannabis through scientific research.

For more on marijuana in Colorado, visit our Marijuana archive.

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