By Dan Viets, J.D., Show-Me Cannabis Board Chair
A bill that restores eligibility for Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits eligibility to those with a felony conviction for possession or use of prohibited substances was signed into law by Governor Jay Nixon last Friday, June 20. It becomes effective, as most new laws do, on August 28.
Under an act of the U.S. Congress in 1996, those with any drug-related felony conviction were made ineligible for SNAP benefits, commonly known as "food stamps", for life. Those with other felony convictions for murder, rape, robbery, treason, or any other crime did not suffer such a disability.
Congress allowed states to "opt-out" of this legislation, and 41 other states have already elected to do so. The Missouri Association for Social Welfare (MASW), which advocated for repeal of the federal prohibition, estimated that Missouri has been losing at least six million dollars in federal revenue that would otherwise have gone to needy citizens, who would in turn spend that money in our state's food retailers, stimulating further economic activity. The bill also expands the ability of SNAP benefits to be spent at farmers' markets in our state.
The Missouri General Assembly actually passed two bills this session which repealed the food stamp prohibition. The other one, SB 727, had been vetoed by the governor recently, causing some consternation among those who feared he might also veto SB 680. However, SB 727 contained a tax break for purchases at farmers' markets, and that was apparently the reason for the veto of that bill.
The passage of SB 680 in the final week of the 2014 legislative session capped a tremendously successful session for drug law reform. A major bill which rewrote the state's entire criminal code eliminated jail for first offense possession of small amounts of marijuana, as well as significantly reducing the maximum punishments for cultivation and small sales of cannabis. It also repealed the "prior and persistent drug offender" law that allowed up to life without parole for a third drug felony. This bill became law without the governor's signature and will go into effect in January 2017.
A bill which allows CBD (cannabidiol) to be extracted from hemp grown in our state and provided to those with severe epilepsy also passed and will go into effect upon signing by the Governor.
In addition to these cannabis-related bills, a bill to allow an opioid drug overdose antidote, naloxone, to be carried by emergency personnel and administered to those suffering from such life-threatening situations also passed without a single dissenting vote in the Missouri House of Representatives. The bill now awaits the governor's signature.
The passage of all of these drug law reforms in a single session is an indication of how effective Show-Me Cannabis and our allies have been in legislative advocacy and bodes well for even greater success in the next session. If you want to help insure that efforts for further cannabis law reforms continue in our state, make a pledge of monthly support to Show-Me Cannabis.