Since 2014, recreational use of marijuana has been legal in Colorado for people over the age of 21. This change does not come without potential consequences for our children.

Kempe continues to be at the forefront of discussions regarding regulation and legislation related to the safety, health and wellbeing of our children – particularly as Colorado determines how it will regulate this emerging industry.

“What is challenging about the recreational marijuana industry is that we don’t yet know the long term impacts it may have on our children,” says John Faught, Kempe’s President & CEO. “Right now, the state is trying to strike a reasonable balance between protecting the public and allowing this to be a viable, responsible industry.”

Kempe’s approach to public policy is to be balanced in its positions, but where children are concerned, the state must be vigilant about making sure we are keeping kids safe. With this in mind, Kempe advocated at the capitol this year for several laws to protect kids from the unintended consequences of marijuana.

Kempe worked closely with the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment to pass HB 1436 – prohibiting edibles from being in the shape of animals, fruit or humans. This bill was particularly important in the effort to keep kids safe as edibles can often be difficult for children to identify and are often similar in shape, taste and color to candy and other sweet treats. Dr. Des Runyan and John Faught both testified in support of the bill.

Kempe also worked with Smart Colorado to support SB16-080 – requiring any medical marijuana grow operation to be locked to restrict access to those under the age of 21 unless an individual is 18 years old and holds a medical marijuana card.

In addition, Kempe was again at the table crafting legislation to expand the definitions of “abuse” and “child abuse or neglect” in regards to children’s exposure to controlled substances. The final version of the bill won the support of the Cannabis Patients Alliance and the neutrality of the Drug Policy Alliance. Despite bipartisan support in the House and a 4-1 vote out of the Senate State Affairs Committee, this bill was killed before the end of the legislative session. This is an important issue that will continue to be a priority for Kempe.

Outside of the legislative session, Kempe has joined Children’s Hospital Colorado, Smart Colorado, Illuminate Colorado, Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment, Colorado Department of Revenue, the Governor’s Office, the Association of Police Chiefs, Healthier Colorado, the American Heart Association, local public health officials, and others to discuss a potential coalition focused on ensuring further marijuana regulations keep the health and safety of kids and families a top priority. The group is using these meetings to share information on local, state and federal legislation and policy related to marijuana.

Finally, John Faught was assigned to serve on two of the Marijuana Enforcement Division’s rulemaking work groups. One of the groups focuses on the testing, packaging, labeling and administrative process, while the other focuses on the legislative implementation of policy. MED conducted its rulemaking hearing on September 2, 2016.

As discussion and regulation of the industry continues, Kempe will identify other opportunities to engage on behalf of children and families. For example, the Kempe Center is working to identify potential research gaps and opportunities related to marijuana and kids and will seek funding for that research.

The Governor has set as a priority addressing the “grey” market in Colorado – legally home-grown marijuana that is sometimes sold illegally.

“The grey market presents a specific risk to children as it is more difficult to regulate and control,” says Faught. “We understand the rights of Colorado citizens to grow limited amounts of marijuana both as caregivers and for personal use, however these grey markets present an increase in exposure and sale to our youth. We hope Coloradans will support efforts to find a sensible and safe solution.”

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