WASHINGTON – Reports that welfare debit cards are being used to withdraw cash at pot shop ATMs has prompted some Colorado Republicans to draft legislation to prevent misuse of the food stamp funds.
The bill set for introduction here Monday is called the “Preserving Welfare for Needs Not Weed Act,” and its authors include Reps. Cory Gardner and Scott Tipton.
“It’s time to close this ‘pot shop loophole’ before it gets any bigger,” the lawmakers said in a letter circulating Thursday among House lawmakers.
Congress passed legislation in 2012 to prohibit access to welfare benefits at ATMS located in strip clubs, liquor stores and casinos.
But with the recent advent of legalized pot sales in states including Colorado, lawmakers say the law needs to be updated and pot shops added to the list.
“This bill does not comment on whether it makes sense for states to legalize the sale of pot, as Colorado and Washington have done,” the lawmakers said.
“It simply says that, wherever pot is legally sold, welfare recipients shouldn’t be able to readily access welfare funds to pay for it. This taxpayer money is meant to support the basic needs of low-income families with children, including reconnecting parents with work—not to purchase marijuana,” the lawmakers said.
The effort is also led by Republican Rep. Dave Reichert of Washington state, who chairs the Ways and Means subcommittee on human resources.
According to draft language obtained by The Colorado Observer, the legislation could take as long as two years to enact if it is passed by the House, Senate, and signed into law by President Barack Obama.
A recent report by National Review Online said that welfare beneficiaries withdrew thousands of dollars in public-assistance-cash from ATMS at weed shops in Colorado.
During the first month of legalized sales, more than $5,000 was withdrawn through 64 transactions at shops selling marijuana, according to records obtained by the online magazine.
The Colorado legislature passed a law last year blocking those transactions at liquor stores, bars, gun shops and casinos, but refused this year to add pot shops and strip joints to the list.