Sessions: HHS Currently Has No Authority to Prevent Welfare Withdrawals at Marijuana Dispensaries

Current law allows welfare recipients to redeem benefits at marijuana dispensaries

• September 9, 2014 1:54 pm


Sen. Jeff Sessions (R., Ala.) issued a statement Tuesday after receiving a response to his letter on welfare oversight from the Department of Health and Human Services.

Sessions wrote the letter to probe HHS on whether recipients of Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) can use their money at marijuana dispensaries. Recipients are already unable to use TANF benefits on alcohol, tobacco, lottery tickets, tattoos, and adult movies. The TANF program is intended to help needy families achieve self-sufficiency.

Sessions said because there are no regulations in place regarding the use of TANF money at marijuana dispensaries, the program may be used to "create or increase a drug dependency" in states like Colorado, where marijuana is legal.

"The federal government current spends roughly $750 billion each year on means-tested welfare programs across 80 different accounts. This money is administered by a vast, sprawling bureaucracy with little oversight and no moral vision. Surely we can all agree that the guiding principle ought to be that benefits are reserved for those in real need.

In recognition of this common-sense objective, Congress has already passed a law which states that Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) cash benefits may not be withdrawn from certain places like liquor stores. But I was surprised to learn that HHS says it ‘has no authority to prescribe policies and practices… to prohibit the use of TANF benefit cards at marijuana stores.’

I intend to introduce legislation to address this problem. Once the loophole is closed, I will also be following up with HHS to make sure they are taking the steps necessary to stop this dangerous misuse of taxpayer-funded benefits."

Published under: HHS, Jeff Sessions, Marijuana, Welfare