Colorado Springs News, Sports & Business

Food stamps at marijuana shops banned under Colorado bill

KRISTEN WYATT, Associated Press Updated: January 10, 2014 at 11:31 am

DENVER — Food stamps for a pot brownie? It's an urban myth in Colorado, but state lawmakers want to make sure that doesn't happen.

A bill proposed this week by several Republicans would add marijuana dispensaries to liquor stores, gun shops and casinos as places where recipients of public assistance payments and food stamps can't use their electronic benefits cards to access cash.

There haven't been any reports of public EBT cards being used at marijuana dispensaries. But lawmakers say pot shops should be added to the law to make clear it's not legal.

"We need this bill, if for nothing else, as a statement," said Rep. Jared Wright, R-Grand Junction.

"We shouldn't be enabling anyone to buy a substance that is banned under federal law. It's not a good use of taxpayer money," he said.

Dispensary owners say they've been debunking rumors about food stamp use in marijuana shops.

Ryan Cook, manager of The Clinic chain of marijuana stores in the Denver area, said there's no substance to fears of public assistance being used for cannabis products.

"I've never heard of it. We've never seen it in any of our locations," Cook said.

The Marijuana Industry Group, a Denver-based business and lobbying organization, hasn't taken a position on the food-stamp bill.

"MIG is focused on addressing issues of public safety, such as access to banking, and working with state and local governments to educate the public about responsible use of marijuana and ensuring this product stays out of the hands of those who shouldn't have it," MIG Director Michael Elliott said.

A hearing for Senate Bill 37 hasn't been set. The bill would also prohibit public EBT use at adult-oriented entertainment establishments, something already banned under federal law.

Electronic cards that contain money for food assistance can't be used to withdraw cash, or for non-eligible items such as tobacco or alcohol. But public EBT cards that contain Social Security Disability benefits or other benefits can be used to withdraw cash, a provision that has led to prohibitions on using public EBT cards at establishments like strip clubs and casinos.

Recreational marijuana sales began Jan. 1 in Colorado. Many of the shops sell marijuana-infused foods and drinks, such as candies, cookies and sodas.

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Kristen Wyatt can be reached at http://www.twitter.com/APkristenwyatt

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