A bill to prevent Colorado residents from using their public benefits cards at marijuana shops died in committee, with Democrats arguing that the bill is not needed.
Both Republicans and marijuana storeowners and advocates supported the bill, which would add pot shops to the list of places where people carrying Electronics Benefits Cards cannot withdraw cash from store ATMS to make purchases, such as strip clubs and liquor stores.
A Colorado Senate committee voted 3-2 along party lines against the bill. Democrats said that people in poor neighborhoods have enough trouble as it is accessing ATMs, so adding another place where they cannot withdraw cash is unnecessary.
“I’m not comfortable limiting that access until I’m certain we’ve done that due diligence to make sure people can access their benefits when they need to,” Sen. Irene Aguilar (D-Denver) told CBS Denver.
Rumor had it that the Republican who sponsored the bill, State Senator Vicki Marble, did so after reading a satirical news report claiming that welfare recipients were using their EBT cards to purchase pot. Marbles, however, maintains that she drafted the bill before the spoof appeared.
The state senator said that without such a bill, pot shops could be an easier target for the feds, who could view the use of EBT cards as a reason to raid the businesses.
"We could have seizures of the stores and all the money at the tills," she said. "... We're setting these newly established marijuana retail stores up to fail."
Marijuana advocates agree. Jason Warf of the Colorado Springs Medical Cannabis Council said Colorado should do its best to preempt any interference by the federal government.
“That’s not something that anybody in the cannabis industry would welcome, obviously,” Warf told CBS.