Mass. state rep calls for ban on using welfare benefits to buy pot

BOSTON (WHDH) - In Massachusetts, using welfare benefits to buy alcohol, tobacco and vacations is prohibited.

Now, State Rep. Shauna O’Connell says she wants to get out in front of potential fraud and abuse by banning the use of EBT cards to buy marijuana.

“Taxpayers don’t want to see people buying pot or alcohol or cigarettes with taxpayer funded benefits,” O’Connell told 7’s Sharman Sacchetti.

Now that recreational marijuana has been legalized in Massachusetts, O’Connell has filed a budget amendment that bans the use of welfare benefits to buy marijuana.

There is an exception for medical marijuana.

“It is necessary. We’ve seen over the years fraud and abuse in the media in these programs. It doesn’t help the integrity of the programs. It doesn’t help the taxpayers,” O’Connell said when asked if she thought the bill was necessary.

The idea alone has early support. House Speaker Robert DeLeo’s office chimed in on the bill, saying the following in a statement to 7News:

“The speaker does not believe that individuals should be able to use EBT cards to purchase recreational marijuana.”

Gov. Charlie Baker’s office told Sacchetti that he supports the concept, as does the group that pushed for legalization in the first place.

“We don’t have a problem with marijuana being treated consistently with alcohol and tobacco as far as folks being able to use their welfare benefits to purchase those items,” said Will Luzier, political director for the “Yes on Four” coalition.

Sachhetti did reach out to several members of the legislature’s commission on marijuana policy. The group will decide how much if at all, to tweak the law passed by voters in November. She did not hear back from them for comment.

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