While there is an element of truth in the idea that welfare recipients can use some funds to buy marijuana, it’s not exactly as cut and dry as some media outlets have reported.
One of the most controversial arguments against the legalization of marijuana — at least as far as regular people are concerned — is that welfare recipients will somehow be able to use the federal Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) to buy weed instead of putting food on the table.
For several years, red-blooded Americans have been worried that welfare recipients are swiping their SNAP cards at cannabis dispensaries rather than at the grocery store. This fear of stoner socialism can be attributed to a story that began to spread years ago, shortly after Colorado became the first state to legalize for recreational use.
At least one satire news site put out an article suggesting that cannabis customers could use food stamps to buy edible forms of marijuana in some places. That’s all it took for this rumor to get stuck in the craw of a conservative society hellbent on keeping a leash on those who rely on our hard-earned tax dollars for support.
While there is an element of truth in the idea that welfare recipients can use some funds to buy marijuana, it’s not exactly as cut and dry as some media outlets have reported. This is what’s really happening.
Long gone are the days when food stamps were doled out as coupons. Now, SNAP benefits come in the form of a government-issued debit card that can be used where food is sold. People who receive these benefits can step inside their local grocery or convenience store and buy whatever food items they need. And they can even make elaborate purchases, too, depending on how much money is put on their card every month. This means welfare recipients can purchase steak, lobster, caviar, whatever. The only stipulation is that SNAP cards cannot be used to buy non-food items like beer, wine, hard liquor, tobacco, household supplies or medicine.
The same goes for cannabis. Not even the purchase of edible forms of marijuana is permitted using these cards. So, no, welfare recipients are not swiping SNAP cards to buy weed in legal states. If Uncle Sam isn’t going to allow people to buy federally legal vices like booze and cigarettes, he isn’t going to give them the freedom to purchase marijuana, which is still banned under federal law.
However, the government has another program called Temporary Assistance for Needy Families. Recipients of these benefits also receive a debit card that can be used at ATMs to make cash withdrawals. What is happening, in some cases, is cannabis customers on this program are using ATM’s in cannabis dispensaries to grab some fast cash and then using the money to buy weed. Still, this doesn’t appear to be the kind of problem that is spiraling out of control.
Some states have passed laws that prevent government-issued debit cards from being used at ATMs in places like casinos, liquor stores and strip clubs. But those cards can be used at any other ATM for cash that could be taken to a dispensary to buy marijuana. There is nothing that can be done to stop that. Where there is a will, there is a way. But the takeaway here should be that food stamp recipients are not out there spending money allotted for food items on legal marijuana. That’s simply not true.