Washington state congressman takes aim at `welfare for weed’

Republican Rep. Dave Reichert of Washington state
Republican Rep. Dave Reichert of Washington state McClatchy

Republican Rep. Dave Reichert, a former sheriff from Washington state, wants to make sure that poor people don’t spend their welfare benefits on marijuana.

On Tuesday night, the U.S. House approved his bill, called the Preserving Welfare for Needs Not Weed Act.

“Taxpayer-funded welfare benefits must be spent on children and families’ needs, and not on weed,” Reichert said in a speech on the House floor.

The House voted to approve the bill on a voice vote.

Reichert’s bill is aimed at preventing people from using government-issued debit cards to make purchases at retail outlets that sell pot.

Two states, Colorado and Reichert’s home state of Washington, opened retail pot stores this year after voters legalized marijuana in 2012.

“This isn’t an idle concern,” Reichert said. “A report examining welfare transactions in Colorado revealed over $5,000 in welfare benefits were accessed in stores selling marijuana in just the first month such stores were open. With other states considering legislation to legalize marijuana, it is important that we close this pot shop loophole now before it expands.”

Republican Sen. Jeff Sessions of Alabama said last week that he will introduce a similar bill in the Senate.