The House has passed a “no welfare for weed” bill, meaning welfare recipients may soon be barred from using their benefits to purchase marijuana.
The Preserving Welfare for Needs Not Weed Act is Washington Republican Rep. Dave Reichert’s attempt to place marijuana in the same prohibited category as liquor stores, casinos and strip clubs, which were banned from purchase via Electronic Benefit Transfer (EBT) cards by a federal law in 2012.
According to Reichert, taxpayers should not be subsidizing welfare benefits if users are swiping their EBT cards to purchase drugs, a purchase that’s light years away from the intended purpose of income assistance. Based on the language of the bill, EBT users would also be unable to withdraw cash at ATMs from stores selling marijuana.
“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.”
Democratic Rep. Lloyd Doggett from Texas complained that the bill just arbitrarily bans one good out of an infinite number of other possible options, pointing out that if the House is banning marijuana, they might want to look at massage parlors and Cadillac dealerships, as well. The bill “does nothing to address the tattered safety net,” he added, according to the Washington Examiner.
If the legislation were to pass, the primarily affected areas would be Colorado and Washington, since marijuana is legally accessible in those two states. Of the 3.6 million families who receive cash benefits from the federal government, 45,000 live in Colorado and 99,000 are located in Washington.
The bill comes shortly after Alabama Republican Sen. Jeff Sessions received correspondence from the Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Sylvia Matthew Burwell, who stated that currently, no regulations restrict EBT cards from being used to purchase marijuana at stores offering the drug.
Sen. Sessions immediately promised to introduce a bill in the Senate reversing the practice, but Reichert’s legislation ended up arriving first in the House. However, owing to the upcoming midterm elections in November, the legislation probably will not reach President Barack Obama in 2014.