A Massachusetts lawmaker wants to make sure people in her state are not able to use their EBT card to purchase recreational marijuana.
Massachusetts residents voted in November 2016 to legalize marijuana for recreational use. And with the law being so new, lawmakers have not fully worked out how to regulate it. One issue still unresolved is restricting the use of EBT cards, which are supposed to be for needy people to buy essentials like food, to purchase cannabis, similar to how alcohol and tobacco have been forbidden to buy with EBT funds.
Republican state Rep. Shaunna O'Connell wants to fix that problem and has proposed a bill that would place marijuana next to alcohol and tobacco on the list of things you can't buy with EBT cards in Massachusetts.
"I want to be proactive in protecting funds for people who really need them and protecting taxpayers’ dollars," O'Connell said, according to WFXT. "We always want to be proactive to close these loopholes and stop fraud and abuse because these are important programs that help people."
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O'Connell's bill would focus entirely on recreational marijuana, meaning that people with medical marijuana prescriptions will be able to use EBT funds to purchase their medicine.
"We recognize that people are prescribed medical marijuana. They can use their money for other prescriptions, (so) that one should be no different," she said, according to the Boston Herald. "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. 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."
O'Connell said she doesn't believe the bill will face much opposition once it gets to a vote.
"I have not heard from anyone yet that opposes this, and I am glad; I think that’s a good sign. I’m not sure what kind of opposition there could possibly be," she explained. "Because in the law right now we already have prohibited items that are similar to this, so it really just makes sense, now that it’s legal. This is a great opportunity to let everyone know that hey, we recognize this could be a problem, we’re being proactive, and we’re going to do something about it now."
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In 2014, a Colorado lawmaker introduced a similar bill after falling for a fake news article on parody news site that said people were using EBT cards to purchase recreational marijuana, according to the Denver Post.