Bill Banning EBT Use at Dispensary ATMs Moves to Governor

You may see warning signs in dispensaries similar to those now on cannabis products.
You may see warning signs in dispensaries similar to those now on cannabis products.
Westword file photo

The Colorado Legislature has passed a bill on to Governor John Hickenlooper that would prohibit use of Electronic Benefit Transfer cards at ATMs at dispensaries and srip clubs. Introduced by Republican Senator Vicki Marble on January 14, the bill was given bipartisan approval on Tuesday in the Senate, as amended in the House. Here's an excerpt of the bill's reasoning:

Current Colorado statutes prohibit the use of automated teller machines by recipients of public benefits at liquor stores, gambling establishments, and firearms dealers. The bill extends the Colorado prohibitions to establishments licensed to sell marijuana or marijuana-infused products and at adult-oriented entertainment establishments.

Meanwhile, another marijuana measure, HB 15-1298, also moved ahead this week when a legislative committee gave preliminary approval to a proposal that would require dispensaries to  warn pregnant women about the potential harms of cannabis. Introduced on March 18 by Democratic Representative Jonathan Singer and Republican Representative Jack Tate, the bill was approved 10-3 by the Public Health Care & Human Services Committee. If passed by both houses, it would require the Colorado Department of Revenue to enforce the posting of warning signs inside medical and retail dispensaries about the health risks that cannabis poses to pregnant women, even though most cannabis products already have similar warnings.

Representative Jonathan Singer.
Representative Jonathan Singer.
File Photo

As president of the Colorado Cannabis Chamber of Commerce, Tyler Henson represents a variety of marijuana business owners; he says the ATM bill was a small step in the right direction. "Even before this legislation was introduced, we recommended that all our (dispensary) members contact their respective ATM service providers and turn off the application that accepts EBT cards," he explains. "We are always looking to the future, and our Chamber would never want to jeopardize potential federal funding cuts to Colorado's low-income families. This becomes especially important as we move closer to the next presidential race and consider the potential shifts in federal-level programs."

While the Chamber fully supports banning welfare cards from ATMs in dispensaries, he says, its position on the proposed warning signs is very different. According to Henson, the proposal is a fear tactic that would continue a regulatory pileup; if it's applied to marijuana, he'd like to see the same restrictions applied to other  industries.

"The Chamber will never argue that cannabis has no negative effects on the human body — all cases are different and just like any product, abuse can cause health concerns," he says. "Require these signs in liquor stores, bars, taverns, clubs and pharmacies. Singling out an industry just because we’re 'the new regulated kid on the block' is a poor excuse to continue the over-regulated burden this industry is being suffocated with."
During a committee meeting, Representative Tate explained that it was crafted for pregnant women who think marijuana may help with their nausea and vomiting, but don't have proper access to medical information. "It is easy to imagine one patient saying, 'No one showed me that it could harm my baby,'" he said.  "We have a problem with asymmetrical information, I believe." 

Singer, the bill's co-sponsor, says he had endorsed legalizing cannabis based on the fact that "people can make informed choices, and that's what this bill is about." The bill will now move on to the full House.

Have a tip? E-mail it to thomas.mitchell@westword.com.


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