State Rep. Judy Amabile stood before her peers in Colorado’s House of Representatives last Wednesday, imploring them to rein in marijuana for their children’s sake. She’s a Boulder Democrat, but her plea as easily could have come from a Castle Rock Republican — or a lawmaker from just about any part of the state; of either party; of any race or gender.

The tragic story she related at the House podium — you can watch the video — could be told by countless heartbroken parents.

State Rep. Judy Amabile delivers remarks in support of HB21-1317

Her own son had started smoking pot in the eighth grade despite his parents’ strenuous objections and most diligent efforts.

“We had tried everything in our power to stop his marijuana use,” Amabile told fellow House members. They took him to psychiatrists and therapists; gave him drug tests; grounded him when he got caught; praised him whenever he did well. He continued smoking through high school.

“We couldn't stop the use. Everywhere he went, this product was available and in greater and greater concentrations in potency,” she said.

At age 18, he had what Amabile characterized as his first psychotic break.

They sent him to a specialized hospital for six weeks at great expense, she said, “and they didn’t fix it. They couldn’t fix it.”

“He will never recover. And our family is broken as a result,” she said. “And we will never be made whole.”

Then came the words that cut like a knife for anyone who has raised a child:

“It’s too late for him.”

She continued resolutely, “Let’s talk instead about your children and the thousands of other children that are being negatively impacted by the use of marijuana. It’s a real thing.”

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And then defiantly, “… let me just say that hundreds of parents, thousands of parents are being affected by this, and we are done being blamed, and shamed into silence. We will be silent no more. And this bill gives us a voice.”

She is referring to House Bill 1317, an earnest if modest attempt to control the proliferating availability of recreational and medical pot to teens and younger children. With Amabile’s support and inspiration, the measure overwhelmingly passed the state House on Thursday with broad, bipartisan support and now will be taken up by the Colorado Senate.

HB 1317 is, if nothing else, a hopeful first step, albeit a baby step, in terms of both policy and politics.

It is sponsored by Rep. Yadira Caraveo, D-Thornton — a pediatrician and the standard bearer for the legislation — and Rep. Tim Geitner, R-Falcon. Importantly, Democratic House Speaker Alec Garnett of Denver is also a prime sponsor. Among its many provisions, the bill would:

  • Lower the daily purchase limits on concentrates for medical patients and recreational consumers;
  • Require the seed-to-sale tracking system to be updated to tie purchases to a medical patient’s identification number in real time, rather than at the end of each day;
  • Fund research into the effect of high-potency THC products on the developing brain.

As explained by our news affiliate, Colorado Politics, the provision on seed-to-sale tracking is designed to prevent “looping” — when a medical-marijuana patient buys up to their daily limit at one dispensary, then goes to another dispensary to buy their daily limit again before the system can be updated. Garnett says looping by 18-year-old medical card holders is the main way high-potency THC products are making their way into the hands of underage students.

Significantly — and disappointingly — HB 1317 places no potency limits on THC, the mind-altering ingredient in pot and pot-laced products. THC would have been capped at 15% in draft legislation touted earlier in the session, but that key feature was gone by the time the bill was introduced. The pot lobby worked overtime to achieve that end.

Still, the bill does attempt to make it a little more difficult for marijuana to fall into the hands of minors, for whom it is theoretically off limits.

On the political front, the bill arguably makes a bigger splash. That it got introduced at all, arguably, is no small stride given the clout Big Marijuana and its well-oiled lobby wield over ruling legislative Democrats. That it actually passed the lower legislative chamber so handily could signal a paradigm shift.

Pot’s purveyors have shrewdly plowed their hefty profits into PR over the years. They’ve invested in a ginned-up image as civil libertarians, equity advocates and harmless hippies. All of which is absurd, of course, but big money can buy big spin. Particularly Democrats have felt tremendous pressure to embrace that image.

That’s what Amabile is fighting when she denounces being “shamed into silence.” It is why she declares, “We will be silent no more.”

Big Marijuana, you’ve been forewarned.