Lawmakers have responded to Fox News reports that food stamps have been exchanged for marijuana by introducing a measure to ban the already prohibited transaction.
Rep. Paul Gosar (R-AZ) introduced the No Welfare for Weed Act to prohibit food stamp recipients from using their Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) or the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance (SNAP) benefits to purchase pot in states where it’s legal.
“Regardless of your feelings on states’ rights, ‘medical’ marijuana or recreational marijuana, people shouldn’t be able to get high using hard-earned taxpayer money,” he said.
Gosar said his bill was a reaction to a report by KDVR-TV that food stamp recipients had withdrawn cash benefits from ATMs inside legal marijuana shops in Colorado using their Electronics Benefit Transfer (EBT) cards.
While the local affiliate found no evidence the withdrawn cash had been used to buy marijuana, Fox News reported in January that food stamp recipients were permitted to use their benefits to purchase the legal drug.
“These programs are meant to provide subsidies for food and other basic living essentials for the neediest families,” he added. “Unfortunately, there are always unscrupulous people looking for ways to game the system, which makes this common-sense update to federal law necessary.”
In fact, SNAP recipients may purchase only approved food items with their benefits and are prohibited from buying alcohol, tobacco, and non-food items.
SNAP benefits cannot be withdrawn as cash, although many recipients use a single EBT card for their food stamp benefits and to access cash available through other government assistance programs.
Colorado lawmakers rejected a measure that would have banned EBT use inside marijuana dispensaries because Democrats were concerned it would restrict access to benefits in areas with few ATMs.
Four other Repubicans and one Democrat, Rep. Ann Kirkpatrick (D-AZ), co-sponsored Gosar’s bill, and Rep. David Reichart (R-WA) proposed a similar bill to prohibit the purchase of marijuana with federal welfare benefits.
Watch the Fox News report posted online by Media Matters:
[Image via Agence France-Presse]