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Penalties for homemade hash oil, cyberbullying, among new Colorado laws

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DENVER — People who make marijuana hash oil with hazardous materials at home will face felony charges in Colorado, and online bullies will be subject to penalties for harassment under new state laws taking effect Wednesday.

Licensed manufacturers of pot concentrates won't be affected by the new law, but amateur cooks will be charged if they use materials like a flammable liquid chemical or compressed gas, both of which have been linked to explosions. More than 30 butane explosions were connected to hash production in 2014.

One of the sponsors of the law, Rep. Yeulin Willett, R-Delta, said that one benefit of the legislation is that it will allow law enforcement to make arrests before there's an explosion, rather prosecuting cases after the fact. "Many jurisdictions felt that their hands were tied, and they could only respond after an accident," he said.

It's unknown how many of the explosions from last year resulted in prosecution on charges such as arson or criminal mischief. Amateur manufacturers of marijuana concentrates will now also face a Class 2 drug felony.

With the cyberbullying law, offenders will be subject to a misdemeanor harassment charge punishable by as much as $750 in fines and up to six months in county jail. Lawmakers named the law after Kiana Arellano, a Douglas County high school cheerleader who tried to hang herself in 2013 after being bullied online. Oxygen deprivation from Arellano's suicide attempt resulted in a severe brain injury that has left her a paraplegic and unable to talk.

Sen. Linda Newell, D-Littleton, one of the backers of the legislation, called cyberbullying a cultural crisis. "We still have to work on the education and the awareness with parents and students," Newell said.

Since 2006, nearly three dozen states have enacted legislation to address cyberbullying in various ways, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.

In all, 19 laws take effect Wednesday. Others include:

— Changing standards for identifying suspects in lineups, including telling witnesses that the perpetrator might not be among the suspects they are shown. Colorado is joining 12 other states that have revamped standards to try to reduce mistaken identifications.

— Requiring that defendants in cases of assault in the first, second, and third degree undergo testing for communicable diseases if their body fluids come into contact with the victim, peace officer or medical provider.

— Creating immunity from charges of possessing drug paraphernalia when someone volunteers to law enforcement during a body search that they have a hypodermic needle or syringe with traces of a controlled substance. The goal is to prevent accidental needle pricks of law enforcement officers or medical personnel.

Lawmakers this year passed 367 bills, three of which were vetoed. Some of the bills became law immediately after the governor signed them, while others take effect at different times of the year.

PHOTO: FILE - In this May 1, 2014, file photo, a man who suffered severe burns to 12 percent of his body when butane fumes ignited while he was making hash oil at home, demonstrates how he made the marijuana concentrate, at his home in Denver. People who make homemade marijuana hash oil in Colorado will face felony charges, and online bullies will be subject to misdemeanor harassment penalties under new laws taking effect Wednesday, July 1, 2015. Colorado is also changing protocols for how witnesses identify suspects in lineups. The laws are among 19 taking effect July 1. (AP Photo/Brennan Linsley, File)
FILE - In this May 1, 2014, file photo, a man who suffered severe burns to 12 percent of his body when butane fumes ignited while he was making hash oil at home, demonstrates how he made the marijuana concentrate, at his home in Denver. People who make homemade marijuana hash oil in Colorado will face felony charges, and online bullies will be subject to misdemeanor harassment penalties under new laws taking effect Wednesday, July 1, 2015. Colorado is also changing protocols for how witnesses identify suspects in lineups. The laws are among 19 taking effect July 1. (AP Photo/Brennan Linsley, File)

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