By Dan Viets, J.D., Show-Me Cannabis Regulation Board Chair
A federal law which mandates a lifetime denial of eligibility for food stamps has caused at least one young mother to resort to prostitution to feed her family.
Dr. Emily Wang, an assistant professor at the Yale School of Medicine, recently wrote in an article published by Alternet about a young woman who came into her office and told a tragic story of desperation which resulted from the federal food stamp ban.
She stated that, because of a drug felony conviction, and her resulting ineligibility for food stamps, she believed she had no alternative other than resorting to prostitution to provide her children with food.
This young woman had been released from prison after a conviction for marijuana possession. She had regained custody of her children and enrolled in college. However, like everyone with a criminal conviction record, she had great difficulty finding a job.
Dr. Wang wrote, "Carla is one of thousands of former convicted drug offenders who suffer because of a passage in the 1996 Welfare Reform Act. The specific passage of the Act was implemented to keep drug users from selling their food stamps for drug money. This concern is irrelevant today because food stamp funds are distributed electronically via a 'debit' card that must be used during the checkout at grocery stores".
The Missouri General Assembly, which convened its 2013 session this week, will be considering legislation to allow Missouri to "opt out" of the federal food stamp ban. Doing so will not only allow thousands of Missourians to restore their eligibility for food stamp assistance, but will also result in many additional millions of federal tax dollars returning to our state and helping to build our economy and create new jobs.
The basis for many, if not most, drug felony convictions is a marijuana offense. Under current Missouri law, one can be convicted of a felony offense for possessing any amount of marijuana above 1.25 ounces, for possessing any amount of marijuana with the intent to share it with other persons, sprouting even a single cannabis seed, or merely sharing a joint.
We should all contact our State Senator and State Representative right away and urge each of them to support the legislation to allow Missouri to "opt out" from the federal lifetime drug felony food stamp ban.