Pubdate: Thu, 16 Jul 2015
Source: Boulder Weekly (CO)
Column: Weed Between the Lines
Copyright: 2015 Boulder Weekly
Author: Leland Rucker


When I interviewed Rep. Jonathan Singer last October, he was gearing 
up for the 2015 legislative session. It adjourned in May, and I 
decided to check in and find out more about what happened this time around.

"It's fascinating how marijuana has threaded its way through 
Colorado's legislative tapestry, and it's an interesting thread," 
Singer, who represents House District 11, said last week at a local 
coffee shop. A non-user, Singer was one of only two legislators who 
supported Amendment 64 before its passage and has become a proponent 
and advocate of making legal cannabis work in Colorado.

"There are so many issues and so many people ready to roll up their 
sleeves and look at it from different angles, which is good, because 
it doesn't leave it to one or two lawmakers to figure this out for 
the rest of the state."

Near the end of the session, Singer introduced Jack's Bill, an 
amendment to the Caregiver Bill that changes the current law to allow 
schools to form policies to allow doctor-prescribed medical marijuana 
to be administered on school property. "It's to make sure kids who 
have debilitating illnesses are able to get the medical treatment 
they need without having to choose between what their doctors are 
telling them to do and going to school."

More importantly, Singer says, theamendment is an honest 
demonstration of how citizens can stand up and advocate for 
themselves and their children and help the state, too.

"If Stacey Linn out in Jefferson County hadn't contacted me, come to 
the Capitol and asked to talk to lawmakers about how her son, who is 
quadriplegic with severe muscle spasms, take his medicine when he is 
supposed is being forced to be able to choose to to or going to 
school, [the amendment wouldn't exist]," Singer says.

Linn's testimony helped change the votes of some state lawmakers who 
normally vote against marijuana bills. And New Jersey has already 
mimicked and strengthened the Colorado legislation for that state.

"It's a breath of fresh air," Singer admits.

The low point for Singer came with the emergence of the TABOR tax 
issue, and his frustration is palpable. "I can write a ballot 
initiative that passes, with widespread support statewide, to tax 
marijuana and put it towards schools and good social programs to keep 
it out of the hands of kids and criminals," he says. "Then TABOR 
flips the script and says, 'Well, because of a paperwork error 
because the Blue Book was wrong on the overall estimate of the state 
budget growth, so we need to return $60 million to the taxpayers.' 
Let's just say that it says more about TABOR than it does about marijuana."

The reason for this, Singer explained, is buried in TABOR's elaborate 
structure, "filled with a million little mouse traps that were put in 
not only to take power away from lawmakers but power away from people."

The way it works is that when a new tax is introduced, the state has 
to estimate how much revenue it will produce in the first year. That 
wasn't easy, given that marijuana had been illegal for decades and 
the market nearly impossible to accurately gauge, but Singer said the 
state did a good job of estimating that first year's numbers.

"But you also have to guess the overall state budget, and when 
they're incorrect on that one, and we come out any amount more than 
that, the difference has to be returned to the taxpayers."

As it turns out, the state's budget estimate was off by about how 
much revenue the marijuana tax brought in.

"That's a disappointment. We have to go back to the voters to ask for 
the same thing we asked for in 2014, and if they say no, every 
taxpayer will get back about six dollars. Wholesale dispensary owners 
will get about $20 million back, and the tax will be eliminated for 
several months until another $20 million is accrued."

That would make it a tax break primarily for dispensary owners and 
cannabis users. "Hopefully it will pass, and we will get money for 
schools and for law enforcement," Singer says. "The 4-H will get more 
money. The State Fair will get more money. Drug and alcohol treatment 
providers will get more money. And all that without increasing taxes. 
Do you want the money to go to schools or stoners?" Next week: Rep. 
Singer talks about legislative efforts to label and standardize 
edibles, banking, working with lawmakers and the growing 
international interest in Colorado cannabis laws.

You can hear Leland discuss his most recent column and Colorado 
cannabis issues each Thursday morning on KGNU.
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MAP posted-by: Jay Bergstrom