Days after Colorado began to allow recreational marijuana businesses to legally operate in the state, a group of state legislators filed a bill to ensure that no food stamps or public assistance funds are used at those shops. The bill comes after a county Republican party committee mistook a satirical news report for fact.
The bill, which would add “prohibitions on the use by recipients of public benefits of automated teller machines at certain establishments,” adds adult-entertainment establishments and marijuana dispensaries to the list of places not allowed to accept public benefits cards. Recipients of public assistance payments and food stamps receive electronic benefits cards, but the food stamp portion can only be used to actual food items (pot brownies are not among them) and state already prohibits withdrawing the public assistance funds funds at in gaming establishments, gun shops, and liquor stores. According to the Associated Press, however, there have been no actual reported cases of benefit cards being used at dispensaries.
Colorado State Senator Vicki Marble (R), the Senate sponsor of SB 14–037, made national news in August when she made claims that poverty was higher among the “black race” because they eat too much chicken. State Rep. Lori Saine (R), one of the House co-sponsors of the proposal, also made headlines when two weeks after Marble’s remarks, she showed up at a committee hearing with a box of Popeye’s chicken (a move decried by Colorado Republican Chairman Ryan Call as an “insensitive and hurtful” endorsement of Marble’s comments).
Last week, the satirical National Report posted a fake story entitled “Colorado Pot Shop Accepting Food Stamps — Taxpayer Funded Marijuana for Welfare Recipients.” Other stories on the site include equally false items such as “Colorado Pot Shop Attempts To Disarm Citizens With ‘Weed for Guns’ Buyback Program,” “How Obama’s EPA Is Taking Away Your 2nd Amendment,” and “U.S. Caves to Iran In Nuclear Deal. Sharia Law Now to be Taught in U.S. Universities. Qurans to be Placed in Motel Rooms.” A conservative news site picked up the story, apparently duped. The Douglas County Republican Committee, also apparently believing the story real, linked to the report on its Twitter feed last Tuesday.
A day later, Marble’s bill was filed in the state Senate. Marble did not immediately respond to a ThinkProgress inquiry about her rationale, but two of her co-sponsors did. Rep. Dan Nordberg (R) observed that while “To my knowledge, there have been no incidences at marijuana establishments in the two weeks they’ve been open,” the bill is “consistent with the intent of Amendment 64, which is to ‘regulate marijuana like alcohol.’” Since the prohibition applies to liquor stores, he notes, it should thus also apply to marijuana vendors. Rep. Jared Wright (R) echoed this view, noting that the proposal is “a preventative measure designed to create better stewardship around where and how these benefit dollars are used” and thus a “a responsible, common-sense bill.” Saine told ThinkProgress that she believes this bill is congruent with the expressed “will of the voters” who backed the ballot amendment: “If the rationale is to regulate marijuana more like alcohol, current state law bans welfare transactions from liquor stores.”
Marble’s personal website claims that she is “committed to creating a vibrant economy and jobs through free markets, regulation reform and small business growth,” and will support policies to “protect your personal freedoms.”