Drug-endangered child bills won't automatically criminalize pot-using parents, senator says
In last week's marijuana legislative roundup, our William Breathes referenced two bills about drug endangered children that he said "could arguably make all cannabis-using parents criminals."
Photos and more below.
He's not alone in this belief. But Senator Linda Newell, a Littleton Democrat, insists that nothing could be further from the truth. And on the eve of the legislation reaching the Senate Judiciary committee, she wants to set the record straight.
"This certainly is not targeting marijuana in any way," says Newell, who's co-sponsoring the bills with Senator Andy Kerr. "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."
The numerically consecutive nature of the bills, known as SB 14-177 and SB 14-178, is appropriate, given that they're a matched set. The former sets out to define the term "drug-endangered child" in the children's code governing actions by state social services, while the latter does likewise in the criminal code that sets parameters for law enforcement.
State Senator Linda Newell.
We've included the complete documents below, but the main definition is as follows:
"DRUG-ENDANGERED CHILD" MEANS ANY CHILD IN A CASE IN WHICH ANY OF THE FOLLOWING SITUATIONS OCCUR: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's the conclusion of many in the marijuana community. Note a Denver Post opinion piece by Laura Pegram, a policy associate with the Colorado branch of the Drug Policy Alliance, and an open letter to Judiciary committee members from a group of Boulder area marijuana businesses.
(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.
The letter, which we've also shared here, states that "Our opposition to this legislation is not based in the inclusion of marijuana or because alcohol is not included. Our opposition to this bill is simple, it creates criminals out of parents."
Cannabis advocate Robert Chase is even more blunt. He has collectively dubbed the bills as the "Parents Who Use Cannabis Are Child Abusers Act of 2014."
Why such vehement opposition? Newell isn't sure.
Continue to read more of our interview with drug-endangered-child bills sponsor Senator Linda Newell, including more photos and four documents.