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Moms Square Off Over Colorado High Potency Pot Bill

DENVER (CBS4)- A bill to limit THC potency in pot has pitted moms against moms at the state Capitol. The bill hasn't even been introduced and already the two sides are gearing up for battle. Rep. Yadira Caraveo, a pediatrician, plans to introduce the bill. She says high potency pot is a public health crisis and there's no reason pot needs to be 90% THC.

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Most studies, she says, show anything above 15% increases the risk of psychosis. She brought the bill to legislators at the request of moms who say high potency pot has destroyed their kids' lives, but she faces opposition from other moms who say it's saved their kids' lives.

"This has been a totally grassroots effort," says Dawn Reinfeld, who is supporting the bill along with other moms, who aren't using their names to protect their kids' privacy.

They come from different parts of the state but their stories are chillingly similar. They say their kids began using pot at 13 and 14 years old. Think only bad kids with bad parents do drugs? So did they.

One mom says her son first used pot at a Boy Scout sleepover, "A straight-A student, co-president of the orchestra, co-captain of the mountain bike team, Eagle Scout."

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They say high potency pot, in the form of concentrates with 80-90% THC, is causing addiction, psychosis and even suicide.

"My heart broke because I began dealing with a shell of my daughter," one mom said.

Another mom talked about why she was speaking up, "I want to educate parents, I want parents to understand that it's becoming a crisis right now."

Reinfeld, a longtime Democratic activist, says she knows what they're up against, "Our children have become the guinea pigs and when people come forward to talk about it, they are blamed and shamed by the industry. We're just parents who want to protect our kids."

A group of moms opposing the bill says, so are they.

"He was seizing 10 times a day, he was unable to speak... medical cannabis changed all that," says Michelle Walker, whose son has severe epilepsy and autism.

Jamie Kropp's son also has severe medical issues and, she says, high potency pot is the only drug that helps him too, "High THC cannabis gives my son the ability to speak. It gives him the ability to tell you these lights are bugging me."

Both moms worry Caraveo's bill would eliminate the strains of cannabis their kids need to survive or require them to buy many times more to get the dosage they require.

"This bill would increase cost of medical marijuana exponentially," says Walker.

Medical Marijuana
Medical Marijuana (credit: Colorado Department of Transportation)

Walker and Kropp say they moved to Colorado specifically for high potency pot and if the bill passes will be forced to move again.

Stacey Linn came to the state Capitol for years to fight for access to high potency pot for her son Jack, who had many severe medical issues. While he passed away, she continues the fight for other kids. She says the bill won't stop teens from accessing marijuana.

"I know where these moms are coming from because I have a kid who is not medically fragile, and he gets confronted by drug dealers, every kid does, let's not confuse that with access to medicine," said Linn.

Reinfeld says the bill is not meant to hurt kids who use marijuana as medicine, "None of what our bill would do would impact that in any way, those are parents fighting for their children just like we are fighting for our children."

Caraveo says she hasn't decided where to set the potency limit and is open to carve-outs for kids with medical needs. The problem, she says, is that doctors are writing prescriptions for 18-year-olds without medical needs.

She says her bill would address that by requiring those doctors to keep medical records, for example, see a patient more than once, and write prescriptions that specify things like the dosage and refills. She also wants a database to track medical marijuana prescriptions similar to that used for opioids.

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