Massachusetts Is Stopping Welfare Recipients From Using EBT Cards to Buy Weed
The Bay State Department of Transitional Assistance has wired pot shop ATMs to detect EBT cards, and has since prevented more than $2,000 worth of attempted cannabis purchases.
Published on August 8, 2019

Adult-use cannabis is legal in Massachusetts, but for residents relying on government assisted funding to pay the bills or supplement a single family income, legal weed is often out of reach. And as the Bay State continues to expand its recreational marijuana market, state regulators have made a point to target welfare recipients who try to use EBT cards to buy cannabis. 

According to the Boston Herald, the Massachusetts Department of Transitional Assistance (DTA) has installed ATM and point of sale monitors in all of the state’s 22 licensed cannabis dispensaries that will detect, reject, and report the attempted use of an EBT card to make a pot purchase. Since Massachusetts opened dispensary doors for recreational sales in November, DTA officials say their systems have prevented 34 cannabis purchases totaling $2,685. DTA officials did not tell the Herald how much it costs the department to install and monitor the EBT deterrent systems.

“Recreational marijuana establishments are prohibited by law from accepting electronic benefit transfer cards,” DTA spokeswoman Brooke Karanovich told the Herald.

When cannabis was legalized in the Bay State, legal weed was instantly moved to the DTA’s banned purchase list, joining alcohol, tobacco, tattoos, and bail payments. But as America’s wealth divide continues to grow, welfare proponents have derided those limitations, arguing that monitoring benefits spending does not actually help people, but instead adds another layer of state policing to people who are struggling. To push back against those regulations, a number of dispensaries across the country offer standing discounts to EBT or SNAP card holders, helping customers access cannabis even when the state tries to stand in the way.

Gallery — Fuck-Tons of Weed No One Is Smoking Except for Cops:

On the flip side, Massachusetts state regulators have lauded the EBT tracking systems for weeding out more than two dozen rule breakers. And while $2,685 in attempted weed purchases isn’t astronomical, Republican lawmakers have played up the thwarted EBT card usage as a significant victory.

“I’m glad the DTA is working hard to ensure taxpayer-funded benefits are not used at pot shops. There’s always going to be abuse of the system and we need to stay ahead of it,” State Representative Shaunna O’Connell said. “I hope they are also pursuing penalties to catch those using an ATM in a pot shop.”

For benefits recipients caught trying to use food stamps to purchase a banned item, a first offense is punished by a demand of repayment by the DTA. A second violation will result in a two month suspension from the benefits system, with a third violation resulting in a lifetime ban from the program.

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Zach Harris
Zach Harris is a writer based in Philadelphia whose work has appeared on Noisey, First We Feast, and Jenkem Magazine. You can find him on Twitter @10000youtubes complaining about NBA referees.
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