“The fact that some people are using welfare for weed is outrageous.” That’s what Rep. Dave Reichert, the Republican Congressman from Washington stated Tuesday. Reichert was introducing his bill which is aimed at blocking welfare recipients from using welfare dollars in marijuana dispensaries. Similar laws were passed back in 2012, preventing the use of welfare benefits from being used at casinos, liquor stores and strip clubs. Fortunately for some marijuana users, this list of businesses never included marijuana dispensaries.
“These are federal tax dollars meant for basic necessities and instead they are being used to purchase something that is illegal under federal law,” Reichert said. “It is exactly this misuse of tax dollars that this bill is designed to stop.” Although it is unlikely that this bill will make it to President Obama’s desk this year, it is likely that Congress will be able to pass the bill sometime within the next year. Even after the law is enacted it will not take effect for two years.
It’s quite surprising that these limitations weren’t implemented before Colorado, but loopholes like these deserve diligent attention to keep legalization running smoothly. “A report examining welfare transactions in Colorado revealed $5,000 in welfare benefits were accessed in stores selling marijuana in the first month such stores were open,” Reichert said. This means that thousands of welfare dollars between Colorado and Washington will be funneled into cannabis within the next few years. Although the support of sensible limitations for welfare recipients will undoubtedly grow, the health of medical marijuana patients on welfare who are unable to use these funds for life-saving medicine could raise other issues in the near future.