Scared of federal intervention, lawmakers in Colorado are working on a bill to prevent welfare users from accessing cash at ATM machines in marijuana shops.
The policy of restricting access to certain ATMs already holds for liquor stores, casinos and guns ships, The Associated Press reports. Republican state Sen. Vicki Marble is worried that the federal government might aggressively interfere in Colorado if there’s any hint that welfare users are spending their benefits on drugs.
The nascent pot industry has been plagued with rumors that low-income users with electronic benefits cards (EBTs) jumped on the opportunity to load up on marijuana. National Review Online found that over a six-month period ending in January 2014, welfare recipients withdrew $23,608.53 dollars at marijuana dispensaries. How much of that total was spent at marijuana shops is unknown.
The bill, set to be introduced in the state Senate next week, failed to pass last year. Opponents argued that since marijuana shops tend to concentrate in low-income areas, those ATMs provide a valuable and necessary service for people without a bank account. As state Sen. Irene Aguilar stated, “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.”
Washington state has already gone ahead and prohibited the use of EBTs in marijuana dispensaries as far back as 2012, though only for those under 18 years of age. Now, at the start of 2015, Colorado Democrats have thrown their support behind Marble’s legislation.
“I don’t think a strip club or a liquor store wants to be out of compliance, and neither does a dispensary,” Democratic Rep. Dan Pabon from Denver said. In 2014, Republican Sen. Jeff Sessions of Alabama tried to move a step further by suggesting that Congress set a national standard for EBT use in marijuana shops, but the attempt stalled.
In anticipation of possible trouble, many Colorado dispensaries have already cut off EBT cards from their ATMs. Industry groups have remained mostly agnostic on the issue.
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