Lawmaker wants to prevent EBT use for recreational marijuana

FILE - In this Nov. 9, 2016 file photo. It is now legal in Massachusetts for adults to possess, grow and use limited amounts of recreational marijuana. (AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez, File)

TAUNTON, Mass. (WPRI) — A Taunton state representative filed a bill this week on Beacon Hill that would prevent the use of public benefits funds to purchase recreational marijuana in Massachusetts.

Rep. Shauna O’Connell (R-Taunton) previously crafted legislation that made it illegal to use an EBT card to buy alcohol, tobacco, or lottery tickets — as well as multiple other items that might be considered luxuries, from televisions to jewelry — or to pay court fines.

The lawmaker has already seen some support for the bill. “It crosses party lines. It crosses social lines. Everybody feels that if there’s a social program, it should be used for the good of everyone,” she said Thursday.

O’Connell’s proposal would still allow EBT funds to purchase medical marijuana — just as other medicines are allowed.

But she feels money and resources reserved for truly needy people should not be used by someone to buy the drug to get legally intoxicated.

“We want to help people become self-sufficient and get to a better place in life, so you really need to be spending your money wisely and be spending it on necessities,” she said. “This is a chance for us — for once — to be proactive in saying, look, we’re going to protect taxpayer dollars. We’re going to protect the integrity of the program.”

O’Connell hopes the bill will pass this session.