Rep. Singer talks edibles, banking and lawmakers


In part one of my interview with Rep. Jonathan Singer last week, he talked about changes the Colorado legislature made to Amendment 64 during the 2015 session. He figures lawmakers will be revising cannabis laws for a long time to come.

“These are some of the million tweaks we will be making because we are a growing society,” said Singer, the representative for House District 11. “I ran three liquor bills this year. We’ve had legal liquor in the state for almost a century, and we’re still perfecting it.”

One of the major issues is labeling for edibles. It’s a difficult issue. Nobody wants children mistaking marijuana for candy, but there are some products that can’t be marked individually. “The Marijuana Enforcement Division is still chewing that one over, so to speak. The bottom line is they have to come out with rules and regulations at the end of the year,” Singer said.

He said there’s a zero-sum game being played on both ends of the issue so far. “One side is saying, ‘make sure it’s easily identifiable,’ and the other side is saying, ‘why?’ There have been no serious suggestions from the marijuana industry brought to the table. I think you’ll see that change in the next couple of months. I think you’ll see that the industry will pool its resources to make this happen.” 

I reminded him that during the edibles working group sessions he said he wanted to be able to distinguish a cannabis cookie as easily as an Oreo. “With the items that are easy to mark, that will happen,” he said. “With things like granola, which is not attractive to kids anyway, or salad dressing, as long as the packaging is sufficient, we can walk away from the marijuana/Oreo analogy that I brought up.”

Some states have banned them, but Singer doesn’t think edibles products, a growing segment of the market, have turned out to be the boogieman that the other side made it out to be. “Even customers are asking for lower doses and a lot of clarity on exactly what they’re getting.” 

And, he said, lawmakers will be looking at other issues related to labeling. “We’ll be trying to make sure that contaminants and molds and pesticides are regulated so people will know what they’re putting in their bodies, and that the potency in recreational products and medical products is consistent and accurate.”

Among the things the legislature will be looking at more closely is the criminal justice component. “The primary victims of the failed drug war have not been the biggest winners in this new marijuana process that we have here. The fact is that if you have drug crimes on your record, you are severely limited from participating in the legal industry. You’re almost forced to stay illegal and contribute to the black market.” 

Most cannabis businesses still don’t have access to banking, and everyone save the Federal Reserve seems to be together on ending this. “Everyone’s motivated in the same direction, everyone wants the same outcome, and this is something that we’re waiting for the Federal Reserve and the federal government to weigh in on,” Singer said. 

The only progress came when the state found it could create its own credit union model without national insurance. “It gives the NCUA up to two years to make those decisions and rules about its dissolution,” Singer said, adding that they’re waiting to hear from the Federal Reserve. “Basically, this should be the easiest win for everybody.”

He said that lawmakers are still basically working together on cannabis-law tweaks. “It’s still a new issue. We’re in a situation where we largely depend on each other for information,” he said. “The battle lines aren’t drawn the same way they used to be, like you see with the death penalty or abortion.

“I think you’ll see it’s like the fights you sometimes see, for example, in the liquor industry and the restaurant industry. Those kind of turf battles play out in every sector. You see it between dental hygienists and dentists, or nurse practitioners and R.N.s not necessarily seeing eye to eye,” Singer said. “The goal is usually compromise for all kinds of good reasons, but it’s trying to do the right thing while pleasing everybody at the same time, which is a tough needle to thread.”  

You can hear Leland discuss his most recent column and Colorado cannabis issues each Thursday morning on KGNU.