As Marijuana Moment reported, Rep Tom Rice, R-South Carolina, and Rep. Jackie Walorski, R-Indiana, filed a bill – not the first – to prevent the use of Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) at dispensaries. TANF assists families that have children.
A spokesperson for Rice defended the move, telling the publication that the congressman believes that, “Those taxpayer funds should instead be used by families who require assistance meeting actual needs.” The spokesperson pointed out that benefits already may not be used at casinos, liquor stores and strip clubs. The new bill merely “closes a loophole” in the system that has cropped up as medical marijuana legalization has spread, the spokesperson said.
The title of the legislation, Welfare for Needs not Weed Act, has prompted anger all on its own, Marijuana Moment reported. Activists interviewed said the bill targets the most vulnerable and perpetuates medical cannabis stigmas. People should be allowed to use the funds for medicine, they said.
“Millions of Americans living with chronic, debilitating conditions rely on cannabis to manage their symptoms and significantly increase their quality of life, Queen Adesuyi, policy manager for the Drug Policy Alliance’s Office of National Affairs, said.
“For millions of patients, cannabis is a need,” she told Marijuana Moment. She pointed out that, if the legislation passes, veterans would be among those targeted. She said that the full impact would be to extend what she called the “war on cannabis.”
“This bill is a disgraceful culmination of [the] stigma against under-resourced people, and [the] misguided stigma against cannabis, a medicinal plant,” Adesuyi continued. “Representative Rice is out of touch with where the rest of the nation is on the importance of ending the war on cannabis, and the needs of millions of Americans who benefit from access to cannabis.”
Justin Strekal, political director of NORML, went further. “The absurdity of this effort highlights that Tom Rice is not a statesman but rather a petulant child attempting to take a serious issue and make a mockery of it,” he said.