Child advocates express concern about recreational marijuana bill

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ALBUQUERQUE, N.M.- Many lawmakers believe safeguards should be in place to protect New Mexicans, especially children, if the state legalizes recreational marijuana.

"What really sparked my interest in this particular bill, is I have a case – a number of kids who tested positive for cannabis, young children 2-5 years old, who have tested positive, and we don’t have the framework to protect these kids," said family law attorney Antonia Roybal-Mack.

She’s concerned about language in the Cannabis Regulation Act, which prevents the state from stepping in if a parent is harming or abusing the child while under the influence of cannabis.

"It prevents CYFD, it prevents judges, or anybody from protecting the child if the neglect is based upon cannabis use," Roybal-Mack claimed. "And we need to make that akin to alcohol use, where at the end of the day, regulating cannabis is important, but we need to look at what children need, and we protect them."

Social justice advocates believe the state needs to make sure it’s not penalizing and criminalizing cannabis use.

However, Roybal-Mack believes there is a way to make sure children are still protected.

"If you have a parent who is drinking too much alcohol, who’s driving with a child in the vehicle because of alcohol use, who’s not getting that child to school because of alcohol, is abusing that child and otherwise creating neglectful environment for a little kid that can’t protect himself in that moment, the police do it, CYFD does it, family lawyers can go in and protect and protect that child," Roybal-Mack said. "It’s saying if you consumed cannabis, it’s ok. But if you consume cannabis in a way that puts a child in danger, that’s no longer OK."

The New Mexico legislature is not addressing consumer laws to regulate the marketing and packaging of edible marijuana products, which could easily be confused for a baked good or a piece of candy.

"The packaging should be mandated not to be attractive to children," Roybal-Mack said. "If you are an adult, and you go in and want to buy gummies, that’s great. You know what they are, and you know what’s in the packaging. But there should not be characters, or any of those sorts of things on the packaging to make it attractive to a child."