On Sept. 7, 2021, following a very busy legislative session, 169 new Colorado laws went into effect, ranging from lost or stolen firearm reporting requirements to suicide prevention. A total of 502 laws were passed during the session, with these laws representing a third of those.
A new law mandates that businesses accept cash; another prohibits legacy admission to schools; new laws on pre-trial detention reform; and more.
The Democratic leaders of Colorado praised the state’s legislature for being one of its most productive sessions after the new laws were passed.
“From passing new laws to combat climate change and improve our air quality to working to prevent gun violence and lower the cost of housing, the 2021 session was one of the most productive in history,” said Speaker of the House Alec Garnett (D-Denver). “I am proud of the work lawmakers did the last session to support their communities, revitalize our state and help Colorado build back stronger.”
Several of the new laws are related to health care, and the families that advocated for them say they could change lives.
New Opioid Antagonist Law
Senate Bill 11 requires pharmacists who prescribe opioids to inform patients about the dangers of the drugs and to offer them Narcan if they overdose.
In addition to being an addiction counselor, Corinthiah Brown has also spent the past 23 years in recovery.
She has lost friends, clients, and even family members to addiction, including her son.
“In December 2019, I got the phone call that every parent dreads to tell me that they found my son. They found him unresponsive. I do not think it is something I will ever get over,” Brown said.
Torrey Brown’s, Brown’s son, addiction began after his seven-month-old son was murdered. A combination of drinking and an injury led him to be prescribed opioids.
Eventually, the prescriptions became addictive. Brown believes the new law might have saved her son’s life if it had been in effect two years ago.
“It is possible that he could have still been,” Brown said. “Somebody could have saved him.”
During her testimony to Colorado lawmakers, Brown expressed her support for the bill for the first time. Her goal is to save more lives in the future.
“At least we have hope that there is an opportunity to save someone because people are going to use,” she said. “I think it will change lives.”
Pharmacists, who argued over the bill’s cost and whether doctors should educate patients instead of pharmacists, pushed back during the bill’s debate stages.
Opioid antagonists were available through pharmacies long before the law was passed. It can be embarrassing to ask for, though, according to Brown, since some people are unable to get them.
“There is still a lot of shame and stigma around addiction and recovery, and so they are not going to go in there and ask for it,” Brown said.
New School-Based Cannabis Medicine Law
According to another new law that goes into effect Tuesday, school districts must allow students to store cannabis-based medications overnight.
Senate Bill 56, in addition to Jack’s Law and Quintin’s Amendment which expanded medication access for students, requires school districts to allow the medicine to be stored on campus and allows volunteers to administer it without fear of being fired or retaliated against.
Amber Wann was one of the main proponents for the new law; Wann’s son, Benjamin, has epilepsy and has used prescription medications in the past, but had serious side effects.
After conducting extensive research, the family decided to try a hemp extract to see if it would control the seizures.
“It was very effective immediately. He did not have a seizure for five years and seven months after starting,” Wann said.
Benjamin is now 20 and enrolled in the Douglas County School District’s Transition Bridge Program.
A cannabis-based nasal spray is available to the family in case he does have a seizure. Initially, the spray was not allowed in school, and even when it was, it had to be taken home each night and given to the nurse the next morning.
Quintin’s Amendment sought to change that by allowing school districts to opt-in. Two of them did, however. Districts no longer have the option of complying with the law; compliance is now required.
“It does not work for everyone, but it works for some and when it does work, we should have equal access to it,” Wann said.
They are now trying to educate school staff and teachers about the new law in coordination with the district. In addition, they are still looking for a volunteer at the school who is willing to administer the spray in case Benjamin has a seizure.
If someone steps in and says we want all volunteers to administer it if something happens, Wann said it would be amazing.
Hopefully, the new law will help other families in a similar position.