In the 2016 Colorado legislative session, the state legislature took up HB 1385, which sought to update the Colorado Children’s Code. The question at hand: How should the use of substances be considered in relationship to child abuse and neglect?

The bill’s sponsors held stakeholder meetings to improve the legislation. These meetings included health care professionals, nonprofit child protection advocates, addiction specialists, and social workers to the table. Given their understanding of substance use related to pregnancy and breastfeeding, Elephant Circle brought unique expertise and perspective to the stakeholder meetings, which resulted in substantive changes to the final draft of the bill. While it wasn’t passed in 2016, the stakeholder process remains an important template for future legislation.

Key contributions from Elephant Circle:

  • The use of marijuana as medicine has been legal in Colorado for years, and use by pregnant or breastfeeding mothers should not automatically be considered abuse. Pregnant and breastfeeding mothers use many types of medicine and marijuana should be considered similarly.

  • When abuse is considered, it is important to treat marijuana use as equivalent to alcohol use, given its legal status in Colorado.