Republicans in the House of Representatives have passed legislation this week which addresses the right-wing media’s attempts to demean pro-marijuana programs through accusations that low-income Americans are using their government benefits in order to purchase marijuana.
There are currently two bills making their way through the Republican-heavy House which connects government assistance for low-income families with the legal purchase of marijuana. The Preserving Welfare For Needs Not Weed Act, which made its way to the House yesterday, hopes to stop the use of individuals using government granted cash cards provided by the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families program in order to purchase marijuana from dispensaries. The No Welfare for Weed Act is a similar bill that was introduced by Rep. Paul Gosar (R-AZ), but instead hopes to ban the purchase of marijuana with food stamps (SNAP benefits).
These bills come as no surprise following the recent efforts by Fox News to blame impoverished Americans for using money from the government to purchase recreational marijuana. According to the National Review Online, “welfare beneficiaries withdrew thousands of dollars in public assistance cash from ATMs at weed shops” just after Colorado legalized recreational marijuana.
These are accusations that the conservatives have continued to push on the public. Republican Dave Reichert claimed, “We are seeing new abuses of these benefits. In these states, a person can walk into one of the newly opened pot shops and use their welfare benefit card to pay for pot…this isn’t an idle concern. Reports examining welfare transactions in Colorado revealed over $5,000 in welfare benefits were accessed in stores selling marijuana in the first month such stores were open.”
The Temporary Assistance for Needy Families blog has so far been unable to prove that any of this money has actually been used to purchase marijuana because many of the shops where the money was withdrawn sell products other than marijuana. Furthermore, many welfare recipients use marijuana as their medicine, so revoking their right to use their welfare money on marijuana is the same as stopping them from buying prescription drugs or herbal remedies.