Legalizing marijuana has spurred a number of unique laws in Colorado over the past year. Starting off the year with a bang, lawmakers are getting ready to pass a bill that effectively makes it illegal to use EBT/welfare cards at ATM machines located in marijuana dispensaries and strip clubs.
Banning the use of welfare cards at certain ATM machines is nothing new in Colorado. Cardholders currently can’t withdraw money from ATM machines in liquor stores, casinos and other similar types of businesses.
A Republican Senator says the main reason they want to add dispensaries to the list is to avoid any possible issues with the federal government intervening in state affairs should they find out that federal dollars are being spent to purchase marijuana. The senator explained,
“If the federal government were to discover that welfare money was being used for the purchase of pot, raids would likely be inevitable.”
Opponents of the bill say that many of the medical dispensaries are located in poor neighborhoods, and consumers without banks often depend on them as their closest source for cash to obtain their medicine.
The issue spans both sides of the political aisle. Democrats and Republicans alike are worried that increased use of EBT cards at pot shops will attract unwanted attention from the federal government, while a stern crackdown on ATM machines could hurt the local marijuana economy.
There have been recent isolated incidences of EBT cardholders withdrawing money from some dispensaries. The shop owners were instructed to install a special code within their ATM machines that would no longer allow those types of cards to be used. Most stores have complied with the new rules and no one has outwardly resisted.
Marijuana industry representatives have largely welcomed the new law because they say it protects growers and store owners from the potential of being federally raided and shut down. Even without the fix, representatives say the type of ATM machines that many of the shop owners have in their stores automatically decline EBT transactions, and have been ever since installation.
The state of Washington has a similar ban on EBT cardholders. Since 2012, individuals in Washington have been banned from withdrawing cash using a welfare card at ATM machines located in strip clubs, liquor stores or marijuana shops.