Marijuana bought with food stamps? New bill aims to prevent claims in joke news story
In recent weeks, we've posted about several satirical Colorado marijuana sales stories that some are taking seriously, including one that claimed pot overdoses killed 37 people and another about Representative Michele Bachmann supposedly driving stoned that prompted an official denial from Fort Collins.
A piece about folks buying weed with food stamps is a joke, too. But there is now actual legislation intended to ban this nonexistent practice.
Last week, the National Report, an Onion-wannabe, published a salvo headlined, "Colorado Pot Shop Accepting Food Stamps -- Taxpayer Funded Marijuana for Welfare Recipients." Here's a screen capture from the offering:
The article states that a shop called Rite Greens "has taken the steps needed to accept food stamps (now called EBT cards) for the purposes of purchasing marijuana, effectively leading to taxpayer funded marijuana for welfare recipients" -- and it even links to a bogus website for the dispensary featuring graphics about the EBT offer and a made-up weed-for-guns program we mentioned in a post last week.
It would take the average person about a microsecond to figure out that none of this is real: For one thing, Rite Greens' phone number has a 206 area code. But as Colorado Pols has done an amusing job documenting, the Douglas County Republican Party tweeted about this supposedly shocking tale anyhow -- and hasn't deleted the message yet even after it was ridiculed by CP. Here's the note:
— Douglas County GOP (@DougCOGOP) January 7, 2014
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By the way, the link in the tweet connects to a conservative website that appears to have been suckered, too -- not the National Report.
Then, a couple of days later, the DougCO Republicans tweeted on the topic again -- this time noting that a bill had been filed at the Colorado legislature to "ban food stamps at pot shops."
Continue for more about the new food stamp-related legislation, including the complete bill. As Colorado Pols points out, Senate Bill 14-037 is sponsored by Senator Vicki Marble, who earned headlines in this space last August after making a comment during a meeting of the state's Economic Opportunity Poverty Reduction Task Force in which she apparently tried to prove her sensitivity toward African-American issues by complimenting black people on their awesome BBQ and chicken.
Her latest bill is below, but here's how it's summarized:
Federal law requires states to take measures to prevent recipients of public benefits from using electronic benefit transfers at liquor stores, gambling establishments, and adult-oriented entertainment establishments. Current Colorado law prohibits the use of automated teller machines by recipients of public benefits at gambling establishments, firearms dealers, and liquor stores. The bill extends the Colorado prohibitions to establishments licensed to sell marijuana or marijuana-infused products and adult oriented entertainment establishments.
Could such abuse of the system actually happen? Probably not, as Colorado Pols details in this mirthful passage: "Back in reality, only specific qualifying food items can be purchased with Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) funds. Retailers who want to accept these funds must apply and be approved by the U.S. Department of Agriculture. We feel pretty confident that any licensed retail marijuana merchant who tried to accept SNAP funds for the purchase of marijuana, or anything containing it, would be frog-marched to the federal prison in Englewood faster than you can say 'pass the bong.'"
We asked Michael Elliott, executive director of the Marijuana Industry Group, if his organization had taken a position on Marble's legislation. As befits someone who has to work with legislators on a regular basis, his response is extremely polite -- but he still manages to make it clear that he thinks there are much more important cannabis-related topics that should be addressed. His statement reads:
The Marijuana Industry Group hasn't taken a position on the 'food stamp' bill. From what we've seen, what the bill is intended to prevent has never actually taken place and probably can't. This year, MIG is focused on addressing issues of security and public safety, such as access to banking, and working with state and local governments to educate the public about responsible use of marijuana.
As for Marble, she tells the Denver Post that the National Report story wasn't the inspiration for her bill. Indeed, she says she's been working on it for months and even produces an e-mail from this past September to bolster her assertion.
Did she spend any of that time determining if there's a chance in hell of pot shops actually getting approval to accept EBT? Hard to say -- but the document itself reads as if she sees it as a genuine danger. Read it below.
Send your story tips to the author, Michael Roberts.
More from our Marijuana archive circa January 9: "Michele Bachmann-busted-for-driving-stoned satire prompts official denial."
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