GOP lawmakers move to outlaw use of welfare benefit cards in marijuana shops

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A group of Republican House members are looking to halt the use of welfare benefit cards at marijuana stores.

In the wake of recent reports detailing the amount of cash assistance withdrawn in a single month from stores selling marijuana in Colorado, Ways and Means Human Resources Subcommittee Chairman Dave Reichert and 11 additional Republican congressman introduced a bill Tuesday aimed at preventing welfare dollars from being used at stores selling marijuana in states where the substance is or will eventually be legal.

The “Preserving Welfare for Needs Not Weed Act” would ban welfare beneficiaries from using their benefit cards from making purchases at stores selling marijuana and it would also prohibit the withdrawal of cash assistance from ATMs in the stores. The bill would add to the list of prohibitions enacted in 2012 with the “Welfare Integrity and Data Improvement Act,” which prevented the accessing of cash assistance in liquor stores, casinos and strip clubs.

“Welfare should help the less fortunate get out of poverty and move up the economic ladder, and this bill will ensure welfare isn’t wasted on marijuana – the use of which is likely to only increase poverty and reduce success,” Reichert said. “While some may decide to spend their own money on drugs, we’re not going to give them a taxpayer subsidy to do it.”

Efforts to outlaw the use of welfare benefit cards in pot shops in Colorado failed at the state level earlier this year, with opponents arguing that the concerns were overblown and that some beneficiaries need to withdraw assistance from ATMs at pot shops due to their proximity.

Reichert’s is not the only bill seeking to prevent welfare dollars from going to pot. Arizona Republican Rep. Paul Gosar also introduced a bill Tuesday with five co-sponsors aimed preventing the use of food stamps and Temporary Assistance for Needy Families funds from going to marijuana with his “No Welfare for Weed Act.”

“The sole purpose of this bill is to prohibit marijuana from being purchased with SNAP and TANF benefits,” Gosar said “These programs are meant to provide subsidies for food and other basic living essentials for the neediest families. Unfortunately, there are always unscrupulous people looking for ways to game the system, which makes this commonsense update to federal law necessary.”

This article has been updated to clarify that Gosar’s bill is different than Reichert’s.

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