Policy/Biz

Welfare-For-Weed Loophole: Colorado And Washington Residents Are Able To Use EBT Cards To Buy Marijuana, But Not For Long

Welfare-For-Weed Loophole
Colorado and Washington welfare recipients can use EBT cards at marijuana dispensaries, but not for long. Reuters

Ranking member of the Senate Budget Committee Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.) announced on Tuesday that citizens of Colorado and Washington, the first two states to legalize recreational marijuana, can currently use welfare to purchase cannabis products at dispensaries. Health and Human Services Secretary Sylvia Burwell recently revealed the details to the senator, who is planning on drafting up legislation that would put an end to the so-called “welfare-for-weed loophole.”

“Thank you for your letter to former Secretary Kathleen Sebelius expressing concern that Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) cash assistance is being used to create or increase drug dependency,” Burwell said in a letter to Sessions. “I am aware of the media reports related to individuals withdrawing cash at Automated Teller Machines (ATMs) located in establishments selling marijuana in Colorado, which has legalized the use of this substance. I agree that any inappropriate expenditure of public funds is a cause for concern and should be addressed immediately.”

The loophole is the result of 2011 laws passed by congress that prohibit the use of benefits received as part of the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) at “vice institutions,” including liquor stores, gentlemen’s’ clubs, and casinos. Marijuana dispensaries are not a part of the list. However, as Burwell points out, each state has the right to decide which types of businesses welfare benefits can be redeemed at. Lawmakers in Colorado are presently considering if dispensaries should be added to this list of vice institution.

“The federal government current spends roughly $750 billion each year on means-tested welfare programs across 80 different accounts. This money is administered by a vast, sprawling bureaucracy with little oversight and no moral vision,” Sessions told the Washington Examiner. “Surely we can all agree that the guiding principle ought to be that benefits are reserved for those in real need.”

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