Congress passes bill to stop marijuana purchases with welfare money
The U.S. House of Representatives passed a bill Tuesday aimed at making it harder for people who receive federal aid to use the money to buy marijuana.
The bill would prevent people from using government-issued electronic benefit transfer cards to make purchases at stores that sell marijuana. It would also prohibit people from using the cards to withdraw cash from ATMs in those stores.
A 2012 federal law already prevents people from using the debit cards at liquor stores, casinos and strip clubs.
Rep. Dave Reichert, R-Wash., is the main sponsor of the bill. He said it is a logical extension of existing law now that Washington State and Colorado have legalized marijuana for recreational use.
“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.”
The House passed the bill on a voice vote, which does not require lawmakers to cast a recorded vote.
Rep. Lloyd Doggett, D-Texas, said he supported the bill but complained that it “does nothing to address the tattered safety net.”
“Why not prevent people from using benefit cards at massage parlors and Cadillac dealerships” Doggett said. “Just blame the poor for being poor.”
Sen. Jeff Sessions, R-Ala., raised the issue of using the cards to buy marijuana in April, when he sent a letter to HHS asking whether the department could prevent transactions at stores that sell marijuana.
HHS Secretary Sylvia Mathews Burwell responded in July that HHS has no authority prevent the use of benefit cards at stores that sell marijuana.
The bill still needs to pass the senate and be sent to President Obama’s desk for signing before it can go into effect.
It is unknown how other Texas representatives voted for the measure.