Rep. Paul Gosar (R-Ariz.) proposed the No Welfare for Weed Act, H.R. 4142, which would prohibit pot from being bought by people using Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) or the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance (SNAP) programs. TANF is the federal welfare program, and SNAP is commonly referred to as the federal food stamp program.
Gosar said his bill is a reaction to a report that people are using their welfare benefits to buy marijuana. He said current law prohibits welfare benefits for purchases in strip clubs, liquor stores or casinos, and said his bill would add marijuana dispensaries to this list.
"Regardless of your feelings on states' rights, 'medical' marijuana or recreational marijuana, people shouldn't be able to get high using hard-earned taxpayer money," he said.
"These programs are meant to provide subsidies for food and other basic living essentials for the neediest families," he added. "Unfortunately, there are always unscrupulous people looking for ways to game the system, which makes this common-sense update to federal law necessary."
Gosar's bill is co-sponsored by four other Republicans and one Democrat, Rep. Ann Kirkpatrick (D-Ariz.).
Rep. David Reichert (R-Wash.) proposed a similar bill, H.R. 4137, with the support of 11 Republicans, including Gosar. His bill deals only with preventing the purchase of marijuana with federal welfare benefits.
Support at the state level for medical marijuana has grown. Twenty states and the District of Columbia have legalized medical marijuana, and Colorado and Washington state allow marijuana to be used recreationally.