Society

Massachusetts Is Trying To Take Pot Out Of Welfare

| by Shani Shahmoon

Massachusetts officials are looking to take pot out of welfare.

Republican State Rep. Shaunna O'Connell presented a bill to Beacon Hill on April 12 that would ban the use of Electronic Benefit Transfer cards to purchase marijuana, now that its recreational use has been legalized in Massachusetts, WFXT reported.

This new proposition is her proactive approach in preventing welfare abuse following the new ruling that legalized recreational use of marijuana in the state, O'Connell explained.

"I want to be proactive in protecting funds for people who really need them and protecting taxpayers' dollars," she said.

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While there has been minimal coverage of opposition regarding the bill, some have spoken out against O'Connell's proposition, WFXT reported.

"If they truly need that and it supports their way of life then they can use their EBT cards for that," said Boston resident John Latessa.

On April 3, O'Connell spoke to the Boston Herald in detail regarding her hopes and intentions.

The meeting revealed that O'Connell legitimizes the use of prescribed medical marijuana and does not intend to prevent purchase of that.

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"We recognize that people are prescribed medical marijuana. They can use their money for other prescriptions, [so] that one should be no different. But when it comes to recreational, that’s a different story. It’s akin to someone buying alcohol or cigarettes or some other item that isn’t considered a necessity," O'Connell explained.

For years, O'Connell has worked to reform welfare policies to prevent fraud and misuse.

In 2013, the longtime welfare reform crusader successfully managed to lobby for major reforms that still hold today.

Beacon Hill approved legislation that would ban recipients from using their EBT cards for alcohol, gambling, guns, body piercings, strip clubs or bail for jail release.

Now that marijuana purchase for recreational purposes has been legalized, O'Connell believes that it should be added to this list.

"We know that there is only so much assistance to go around, we want to help people in need, we want to make sure that that money is being used appropriately," she explained.

WBUR reported that results from 2016 election day confirmed that Massachusetts will join a handful of states in the country to have legalized the recreational use of marijuana.

The results were 54 to 46 percent -- with 96 percent of precincts reporting -- to allow adults 21 and older to be in possession of pot and grow it at home starting on Dec. 15. In January 2018, marijuana will be available for puchase in stores.

Until the start of the next year, pot smokers are safe to smoke whatever they’ve got on hand, but are not able to legally purchase the green stuff. 

Sources: Boston Herald (2), WFXT, WBUR / Photo credit: Angela Rowlings via Boston Herald

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