Not satire: Colorado introduces bill that would allow human remains to be composted

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DENVER, CO – A bill introduced to the Colorado General Assembly back in February seeks to allow loved ones of those recently deceased to have their remains essentially converted into soil via an expedited decomposition process.

On February 16th, SB21-006 aptly dubbed the “Human Remains Natural Reduction Soil” bill was introduced to the Colorado General Assembly.

This bill, which was sponsored by state Senator Robert Rodriguez (D), Rep. Matt Soper (R) and Rep. Brianna Titone (D), would affectively allow those with the right of final disposition to have their loved ones composted after they pass away.

According to the bill text, the following is noted about what the bill aims to achieve:

“The bill authorizes human remains to be converted to soil using a container that accelerates the process of biological decomposition, also known as ‘natural reduction.’”

There are a few caveats with respect to this proposed bill, if it indeed passes into legislation, prohibits the following practices:

  • Selling or offering to sell the soil
  • Commingling the soil of more than one person without the consent of the person or persons with the right of final disposition unless the soil is abandoned
  • Commingling the human remains of more than one person without the consent of the person or persons with the right of final disposition within the container wherein natural reduction produces soil
  • Using the soil to grow food for human consumption

From what The Hill reports of this unique proposed legislation, this expedited decomposition process is what’s known as “natural reduction.” Apparently, what this process consists of is a means to accelerate the biological decomposition of a human body.

Currently within the state of Colorado, the law affords human remains to be treated postmortem with traditional burials, cremation, and entombment.

Sen. Robert Rodriguez commented on the proposed bill, referring to it as “innovative”:

“It’s an innovative idea in a state that prides itself on natural beauty and opportunities.”

The state of Washington happens to have been the first state to have legalized this process back in 2019, which would make Colorado the second state to legalize this practice if the measure passes.

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In other news related to Colorado, the state wound up encountering some pandemic-related complications regarding DUI cases being tossed out of court due to certain police departments’ practices conflicting with suspected DUI drivers’ rights when stopped. 

Here’s that report from February. 

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DENVER, CO – It appears that due to the ongoing pandemic, there has been a sort of de facto loophole inadvertently created that is seeing alleged drunk driving cases getting dismissed in the courts in Colorado.

And the reason being has to do with the manner in which field sobriety tests are being administered – or rather, not administered.

Most everyone knows what the run of the mill field sobriety test looks like: an amalgamation of tests related to balance, multitasking and the ilk.

But there’s also one crucial piece of evidence that helps solidify every alleged case of driving under the influence: the field breathalyzer test.

And the Denver Police Department, reportedly among others in the state of Colorado, have stopped administering field breathalyzer tests. The reason being is due to concerns of creating transmission risks during the pandemic.

DPD Chief Paul Pazen commented on that aspect, saying:

“It’s important we have accountability for people who choose to drive while impaired as well as [making sure] we’re not unnecessarily or unduly spreading COVID-19.”

And as a result of these practices, some cases have been getting dismissed recently in the courts, essentially due to officers refusing to offer suspected DUI drivers a field breathalyzer test.

Jay Tiftickjian, a defense attorney in Denver who handles DUI cases, commented on this situational dilemma:

“Police officers have to do their jobs according to the law and when they don’t, cases get thrown out… Drivers who may be under the influence or impaired will get off on this issue.”

According to state law, police are supposed to offer suspected DUI drivers one of two means of documenting their BAC: either via a breathalyzer or a blood test. However, under “extraordinary circumstances”, certain forms of administering the field sobriety tests can be declined.

The Denver Police, Aurora Police, the Jefferson County Sheriff’s Office and the Colorado Springs Police Department have all collectively determined that COVID-19 and the potential of spreading it would fall under an “extraordinary” circumstance.

But that appointed classification by the aforementioned law enforcement agencies is in contrast with the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment, which has deemed that administering a breathalyzer test during the pandemic is safe.

A case that was recently dismissed in January exemplified the caveats of this juxtaposed position on administering breathalyzers during the ongoing pandemic.

Charles Fife explained the January case where his client was told he had to submit a blood test when he asked for a field breathalyzer:

“Without being offered a breath test, my client still demanded a breath test. [The Officer] refused to give client his breath test – which is his right, guaranteed under the statute. At the motions hearing the prosecutor argued COVID fell into the classification of ‘extraordinary circumstances.’ The Judge disagreed.”

A similar situation happened during a December 2020 administrative hearing involving a woman suspected of a DUI back in October.

This woman’s driver’s license was on the line during this hearing, but the hearing officer in that case dismissed the matter, noting that concerns over the pandemic are not, “extraordinary circumstances which prevented the completion of a breath test.”

Jeff Groff, who reportedly oversees breathalyzer testing for the state department, notes that his agency cannot compel any law enforcement agency to administer breathalyzers, but he wants to point out there’s no data suggesting they’re unsafe to administer:

“There’s nothing out there… I have no reason not to believe it’s not safe. So I think that performing a breath test on these instruments is no more risky than going to 7-Eleven and using your ATM card and the Pin pad.”

Groff says that so long as officers are wearing PPE while administering a breathalyzer, maintain social distancing, and are not sharing a confined space with someone using a breathalyzer – then they should be fine.

There are still several other law enforcement agencies in Colorado haven’t stopped administering the breathalyzer test, according to reports.

While it seems the aforementioned law enforcement agencies are sticking by their proverbial guns on this matter, local attorneys believe that this debacle will likely find it’s way into the courts to determine what police departments can do moving forward.

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