Chabot: Bill would block pot purchases with EBT
People on the dole would be barred from toking on the taxpayers’ dime under legislation filed by welfare-reform crusader State Rep. Shaunna O’Connell (R-Taunton), who’ll testify for her bill today before Beacon Hill’s Joint Committee on Marijuana Policy.
“I think the track record that the Legislature has is that it takes many years to get things passed, especially spending reforms,” said O’Connell, who was a key player in a major cleanup of the state’s EBT card fraud four years ago. “This is a good opportunity for lawmakers to be proactive in doing reforms that will protect taxpayers’ money and also protect integrity of the program.”
O’Connell’s bill, one of 50 pieces of marijuana-related legislation on the agenda at the State House today, would ban the use of EBT cards for “marijuana or marijuana products not prescribed under the law for medicinal purposes.”
In her campaign against welfare abuse four years ago, the Taunton Republican was famously forced to pay $800 for Department of Transitional Assistance records detailing high-balance EBT cards in 2013.
Beacon Hill lawmakers ultimately passed legislation cracking down on the DTA in response. The law prevents welfare recipients from using their EBT cards for booze, gambling, guns, body piercing, strip clubs or bail.
But the abuse has continued, largely because legislative leaders didn’t go far enough when it comes to EBT cash withdrawals, said O’Connell. As recently as December, the Herald’s Howie Carr reported a Bay State EBT card withdrawal of $100 at the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department ATM.
“The cash has been a continuing issue. I think we need to go back to the drawing board,” said O’Connell, who added that, while many positive changes were made at the state’s Department of Transitional Assistance, “We really need to look at how we can better oversee the program.”
hopes to further reform the welfare system by creating a more rigorous vetting process to ensure the identity of applicants as well as their income.
“We need to stop the fraud and abuse on the front end before people even get into the program,” said O’Connell.
But today, O’Connell just wants to keep welfare money out of pot purchases.
“I’ve heard a lot of positive feedback,” she said, adding the committee has done good work. “We need to get ahead of this or it could be a larger problem down the road.”