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A fully budded marijuana plant ready for trimming is seen at the Botanacare marijuana store ahead of their grand opening on New Year A fully budded marijuana plant ready for trimming is seen at the Botanacare marijuana store ahead of their grand opening on New Year's Day in Northglenn, Colo., Dec. 31, 2013. (REUTERS/Rick Wilking)  

Colorado bill would expose pot users to child abuse charges

Parents are worried they will be charged with child abuse simply for keeping marijuana in their homes under a Colorado bill that seeks to define a “drug endangered child.”

Criminal charges can be filed if pot is used, grown or merely possessed in a home where children live and if authorities determine the drugs threaten the “health or welfare” of the kids. Such a threat can come from a parent or guardian who is stoned, or if the drugs are accessible to children, according to the wording of the bill.

“If a child is exposed to or is in a home where a controlled substance is or manufactured, used, distributed, those kinds of things, it could be considered as a child abuse situation,” Republican Sen. Bernie Herpin told Pueblo’s ABC News Channel 13.

Sierra Riddle, who grows marijuana and infuses it in oil to treat her 4-year-old son’s leukemia, told the station she’s worried that if the bill passes, she’ll be at risk of being charged with a crime.

Her son’s cancer has been in remission for a year and the marijuana oil is used to supplement his costly medical treatments.

“All I’m doing is growing a simple plant trying to help cut costs of how much his cancer treatments are for our family,” she said. “And now that we have it, I could be charged with child abuse or neglect.”

Medical marijuana has been legal in Colorado since 2000. Voters in 2012 legalized adult recreational use, including the right to grow it at home.

Part of the intent of the bill is to give child welfare officials and law enforcement the ability to regulate the manufacture of THC into concentrate, which is extracted using bottled butane. It can be a dangerous process that has resulted in several high-profile accidents in which the butane ignites, blowing up houses and causing severe burns.

Riddle said she supports regulations for such manufacturing to protect children in such situations, but the bill should be more narrowly worded to protect parental caregivers.

“When you get into the manufacturing, then yes, I think something needs to be clear,” she told the station. “We are not on [that] side of things at all.”

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