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Welfare Cash for Weed in Colorado

Posted by on Jul. 23, 2014 at 8:47 AM
  • 48 Replies

 Welfare Cash for Weed in Colorado
Recipients are withdrawing thousands in cash at pot dispensaries, and Republicans want to stop it.
 


High Times (Dreamstime)
 
Text  

For the past six months, welfare beneficiaries in Colorado have repeatedly withdrawn their cash benefits at marijuana retailers and dispensaries, according to a new analysis by National Review Online. Such apparent abuses have caught the eye of Colorado's executive and legislative powers alike, and the state has launched an effort to curb them.

At least 259 times in the first six months of legalized recreational marijuana in Colorado, beneficiaries used their electronic-benefit transfer (EBT) cards to access public assistance at weed retailers and dispensaries, withdrawing a total of $23,608.53 in Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) cash, NRO's examination found.

In 2012, the latest fiscal year available, Colorado used $124 million in TANF money from the federal government, according to the Center for Budget and Policy Priorities. Withdrawals at marijuana establishments represented only a tiny fraction of the more than 500,000 total EBT transactions that have occurred since recreational weed became legal in Colorado on January 1. And it's impossible to determine how much of that welfare money actually was used to buy pot, given that cash benefits are fungible and some of these establishments also sell groceries.

Nevertheless, welfare withdrawals at weed stores are coming under increasing scrutiny, and Colorado's legislators and bureaucrats are beginning an effort to restrict abuses.

 On July 11, the Colorado State Board of Human Services passed an emergency rule, effective immediately, restricting the use of TANF funds at marijuana shops, bars, liquor stores, gambling establishments, and other potentially inappropriate venues.

The Colorado Department of Human Services (CDHS), which oversees the TANF program, has begun to convene a task force on apparent misuse of cash benefits, joining with other state agencies to work out the details of enforcement, including how to monitor transactions, what constitutes wrongful usage, and whether withdrawals at medical-marijuana dispensaries should be considered a potential abuse of welfare money.

Todd Jorgensen, deputy director of the CDHS Office of Economic Security, says: "For the first time in Colorado, the rule will allow us to deactivate an EBT card if we identify misuse. . . . The department takes the appropriate use of TANF funds very seriously."

As the first state in the nation to allow recreational marijuana, Colorado is trailblazing such restrictions. Though federal law requires states to limit the use of cash benefits at liquor stores, gambling establishments, and adult-entertainment stores, it does not explicitly address marijuana retailers or dispensaries.

Last session, some Colorado legislators attempted to pass a bill banning TANF withdrawals at marijuana establishments, but Democrats blocked it. The state's Republicans did succeed, however, in passing a budget amendment that would preclude such use. Because of a legislative technicality, however, the amendment "doesn't have the power and teeth behind it that a statute does," says Colorado Springs representative Dan Nordberg, one of the key proponents of the ban. Republican lawmakers plan to re-introduce stronger legislation next session.

- Jillian Kay Melchior is a Thomas L. Rhodes Fellow for the Franklin Center for Government and Public Integrity. She is also a Senior Fellow at the Independent Women's Forum. Caroline Craddock and Ishianose Omofoma helped conduct statistical research for this story.

by on Jul. 23, 2014 at 8:47 AM
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Replies (1-10):
nurse1997
by Bronze Member on Jul. 23, 2014 at 8:54 AM
1 mom liked this

Wow ban these people forever let them starve !  

TruthSeeker.
by Milami on Jul. 23, 2014 at 8:55 AM
6 moms liked this
Big brother is watching you poor people.
snookyfritz
by Platinum Member on Jul. 23, 2014 at 9:07 AM
4 moms liked this

I know of one town in my state that the only atm available is in a Pot Shop.  As the article states, there is no way to know where the money is being spent.  

The only Colorado legislators having issue are the conservative.

Democrats want the bank desert dealt with before anything is done to restrict people's access to their money.  

jessilin0113
by Ruby Member on Jul. 23, 2014 at 9:16 AM
6 moms liked this
This does not bother me.
meriana
by Platinum Member on Jul. 23, 2014 at 9:19 AM


Quoting snookyfritz:

I know of one town in my state that the only atm available is in a Pot Shop.  As the article states, there is no way to know where the money is being spent.  

The only Colorado legislators having issue are the conservative.

Democrats want the bank desert dealt with before anything is done to restrict people's access to their money.  

So what did people do before the pot shop with the atm existed? Perhaps pot shops should be restricted from having atm's.

momtimesx4
by on Jul. 23, 2014 at 9:20 AM

snookyfritz
by Platinum Member on Jul. 23, 2014 at 9:22 AM

What they did was have to wait for a ride to a town where there were atms.  They had to wait to pay bills, wait to buy toilet paper, wait to buy sanitary napkins or tampons.  That's what they did.   

Quoting meriana:


Quoting snookyfritz:

I know of one town in my state that the only atm available is in a Pot Shop.  As the article states, there is no way to know where the money is being spent.  

The only Colorado legislators having issue are the conservative.

Democrats want the bank desert dealt with before anything is done to restrict people's access to their money.  

So what did people do before the pot shop with the atm existed? Perhaps pot shops should be restricted from having atm's.


trippyhippy
by Platinum Member on Jul. 23, 2014 at 10:26 AM
2 moms liked this

Why would they restrict a pot shop from having an atm?  That's like saying we should be able to stop liquor stores from having atms.

Quoting meriana:


Quoting snookyfritz:

I know of one town in my state that the only atm available is in a Pot Shop.  As the article states, there is no way to know where the money is being spent.  

The only Colorado legislators having issue are the conservative.

Democrats want the bank desert dealt with before anything is done to restrict people's access to their money.  

So what did people do before the pot shop with the atm existed? Perhaps pot shops should be restricted from having atm's.


latashac
by on Jul. 23, 2014 at 10:30 AM
6 moms liked this

Someone remind me again about that thing about smaller gov't, and less intrusion. Or is this one more time where it is ok because Republicans want it??

RandRMomma
by Maya on Jul. 23, 2014 at 10:32 AM
1 mom liked this
Yeah, there are bigger fish to fry. There's no way to know how the money is being spent. Much ado about nothing.
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