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Welfare for weed in Colorado? Lawmakers worried, but sellers say it doesn’t happen

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General manager David Martinez labels containers of retail marijuana, behind a sales bar fitted with a brochure available to customers, at 3D Cannabis Center in Denver, Dec. 31, 2013. ((AP))

At Colorado’s newly minted recreational marijuana shops, cash is king.

Because the drug is still illegal at the federal level, most pot shops in Colorado are not taking credit cards or other forms of electronic payment, thanks to the complications that could come from federal authorities tracking down customers and store owners through those transactions. It’s a legal business, but one that’s forced to operate as if it were still partially in the black market.

To make things easier for their customers — and to keep people from having to carry large stacks of cash with them as they come and go, which could attract criminals — many shops have installed ATMs inside.

“That was something that was really important to the police officers that we met with before we opened. They didn’t want people bringing in a lot of cash,” said Jay Griffin, manager of Dank Colorado, a pot shop in Denver that has an ATM.

But what if the cash coming out of those ATMs is coming straight from the taxpayer?

Three Colorado state lawmakers worry it might be.

They have introduced a bill that would ban the use of food stamps and other forms of electronic welfare benefits from being accessed at ATMs located inside marijuana dispensaries, as the pot shops are legally known. The measure, Senate Bill 37, would also block access to welfare benefits at strip clubs.

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