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Brownie Points

Claim:   A store in Colorado accepts food stamps towards the purchase of food items containing marijuana.


Example:   [Collected via e-mail, January 2014]

Is there a pot shop in Colorado that is taking ebt cards for food items containing marijuana?

Origins:   On 3 January 2014, the National Report published an article positing that in Colorado (where marijuana use had just been legalized) a store had begun accepting food stamps towards the purchase of food items made with marijuana:
As of January 1st, 2014, Colorado became the first state in the nation to allow adults aged 21 or older to purchase and use marijuana for recreational use. The decision has led to excessively large lines at pot shops across the state and store owners reportedly surpassed $1 million in sales statewide on just the first day according to Denver's 9News.

In all, 136 licenses have been approved by the state of Colorado for retail operations for the purposes of selling marijuana. A majority of those licenses were issued to businesses in Denver with just eighteen city stores completing the process in time for opening day. One of those shops, Rite Greens, located on E. Colfax Ave in Denver, 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.

Electronic Benefit Transfer cards — part of the Department of Agriculture’s Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program — are typically of two general categories: food and cash benefits. [Store owner] JC Franco was able to take advantage of a loophole in the SNAP program as his shop sells a wide array of "edible" marijuana ranging from cookies and brownies to barbeque sauce and homemade butter.
By the end of the day links and excerpts referencing this article were being circulated via social media, with many of those who encountered it mistaking it for a genuine news item. However, the article was just a bit of political humor from the National Report spoofing the controversy over legalized recreational marijuana use and stereotypes about recipients of government assistance. The National Report is a satirical web site that publishes outrageous fictional stories such as "IRS Plans to Target Leprechauns Next," "Boy Scouts Announce Boobs Merit Badge," and "New CDC Study Indicates Pets of Gay Couples Worse at Sports, Better at Fashion Than Pets of Straight Couples."

The National Report's disclaimer page notes that:
National Report is a news and political satire web publication, which may or may not use real names, often in semi-real or mostly fictitious ways. All news articles contained within National Report are fiction, and presumably fake news. Any resemblance to the truth is purely coincidental.
A real news story from mid-January 2014 about the use of ATMs in Colorado marijuana shops was widely misinterpreted to mean that recipients of government benefits could in fact use food stamp funds to purchase marijuana in that state, but that wasn't what the report was about.

EBT cards in many states can be used to access both food stamp benefits from the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) and cash benefits from other programs such as Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF). While the latter can be withdrawn in the form of cash through ATMs, the former can only be used as credit towards the
purchase of SNAP-qualified foodstuffs. In order to cut down on the use of cash benefits for less-desirable expenditures, a number of states have enacted laws that prevent the use of EBT cards to withdraw cash benefits from ATMs located in particular types of businesses, such as liquor stores, gun shops, casinos, and adult entertainment venues.

In January 2014, Republican lawmakers in Colorado proposed adding marijuana shops to the list of businesses in which EBT cards could not be used to withdraw cash benefits through ATMs, but that proposal was rejected by Democratic committee members. That defeat did not mean that food stamps could be used to purchase marijuana, however: It is still the case that SNAP (i.e., food stamp) benefits cannot be used to purchase marijuana in Colorado, nor can SNAP benefits be withdrawn in the form of cash and used to purchase marijuana (or anything else). Participants in other, non-food stamp government programs (such as TANF) that provide cash benefits could ostensibly use their EBT cards to withdraw cash from ATMs in marijuana shops and then turn around and use that money to purchase marijuana, but they could also use any other ATM for that purpose.

Last updated:   22 January 2014

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