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Bill Introduced to Define Drug-Endangered Children

Proposed legislation cites federal law in defining when a child is endangered by a caregiver’s use or possession of drugs, potentially trumping Colorado law and making it illegal to possess, smoke or grow pot near children or in their homes.

Senate Bill 278, which was introduced Thursday and assigned to the Senate Health and Human Services Committee, would create a legal definition of a drug-endangered child in the context of abuse and neglect.

Under the proposal, any child whose well-being is endangered by the use, possession, distribution or manufacture of a controlled substance could be a victim of child abuse or neglect.

That definition could include the use and possession of marijuana, which is legal under Colorado law, but still considered illegal under the federal Controlled Substances Act, which the bill cites.

Colorado’s passage of Amendment 64 in November legalized the use and limited possession of the drug by people 21 and older. It also allows people to grow six plants in their homes.

The bill is intended to create consistency in practice between law enforcement, child welfare services and other agencies, said one of its sponsors, Sen. Linda Newell, D-Littleton.

With the legalization of medical and recreational marijuana and Colorado’s recent ranking as the second worst state for prescription drug abuse, the bill will spark a complicated and important conversation, Newell said.

“This bill is not without its complications,” Newell said. “It is really difficult to find that delicate balance between making sure the kids are protected, but at the same time not overstepping and having unintentional consequences for a family who is providing a very safe home.”

Under the bill, children who test positive for either a Schedule I or Schedule II controlled substance could also be considered endangered and possible victims of abuse or neglect.

Infants who test positive for Schedule II drugs at birth will not be considered endangered if their mothers were prescribed the drugs. Schedule II drugs include commonly prescribed opiates, such as codeine. That portion of the bill cites Colorado law and does not include infants who test positive for marijuana at birth.

Newshawk: The GCW
Source: Denver Post (CO)
Author: Jordan Steffen, The Denver Post
Published: April 19, 2013
Copyright: 2013 The Denver Post

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