Massachusetts House bans marijuana purchases with public assistance

Welfare benefits can not be used for alcoholic beverages, Lottery tickets, cigarettes or porn

BOSTON (STATE HOUSE NEWS SERVICE) – The House on Tuesday took a step toward barring welfare recipients from using their cash benefits to purchase recreational marijuana.

The prohibition would take effect on July 1, 2018 or once legislation has been enacted following a report by the Committee on Marijuana Policy.

Representative Shaunna O’Connell, a Taunton Republican, proposed an outright ban on the purchase of marijuana with electronic benefit transfer cards, except for medicinal purposes. She likened her proposal to lawmakers’ proactive ban on using welfare benefits at casinos.


Continuing Coverage: Marijuana News


State statute also bars welfare benefits from being used to purchase alcoholic beverages, Lottery tickets, cigarettes or pornography.

On a 121-37 vote the House adopted a further amendment proposed by Representative Mark Cusack, a Braintree Democrat and House chair of the marijuana committee. Cusack said the further amendment would allow O’Connell’s proposal to take effect unless the matter is addressed through legislation.

The sale of marijuana, except for medicinal purposes, is not yet permitted, and officials have targeted the summer of 2018 for pot shop licenses to begin. The debate on the amendment featured the maiden floor speech by Cusack, who was first elected in 2010.

Representative Susannah Whipps, an Athol Republican, voted for Cusack’s further amendment. Cusack’s amendment was opposed by Democrat Representatives James Dwyer of Woburn, Colleen Garry of Dracut, and Jonathan Zlotnik of Gardner. Other than that, it was a party line vote.


Related: EBT benefits: How they work, how they’re misused