House passes ‘No Welfare for Weed’ bill
by Carol Thompson
The House of Representatives passed a bill Tuesday night aimed at making it harder for people to use government welfare payments to buy marijuana in states where the drug is legal. Currently, Washington State and Colorado have legalized marijuana for recreational use.
Dubbed the “No Welfare for Weed” bill by supporters, the legislation would prevent people from using government-issued welfare debit cards to make purchases at stores that sell marijuana. It would also prohibit people from using the cards to withdraw cash from ATMs at those stores.
Rep. David Reichert (R-Washington) is the main sponsor of the bill. “The fact that some people are using welfare for weed is outrageous,” Reichert said in a statement. “While some may decide to spend their own money on drugs, we’re not going to give them a taxpayer subsidy to do it.”
Those receiving government assistance in the form of a welfare debit card can still draw cash from a bank or an ATM not located inside a store that doesn’t sell marijuana and use the money to purchase it.
A 2012 federal law prevents people from using welfare debit cards at liquor stores, casinos and strip clubs, however, the government has no control over welfare recipients’ spending once the money is withdrawn.
About 3.6 million families receive cash benefits under the needy families program. That includes about 45,000 in Colorado and roughly 99,000 in Washington State.
More than $5,000 in welfare benefits “were accessed in stores selling marijuana in the first month such stores were open” in Colorado, Reichert said. “These are federal tax dollars meant for basic necessities and instead they are being used to purchase something that is illegal under federal law.” Reichert’s presentation to the House in its entirety can be found here.
The bill was passed by voice vote, meaning lawmakers are not required to cast a recorded vote.
The Senate is expected to propose a similar bill but with Congress hoping to leave as early as this week to campaign for November’s congressional elections, the bill isn’t expected to reach President Barack Obama anytime this year.