HHS: Law Does Not Prohibit Pot Purchases With Welfare

Health and Human Services Secretary Sylvia Mathews Burwell told the top Republican on the Senate Budget Committee that the federal government does not have the power to stop states from allowing people to use welfare benefits to buy marijuana.

In a letter addressed to Budget Committee ranking member Sen. Jeff Sessions, R-Ala., who asked Health and Human Services about the policy earlier this year, Burwell said the law simply excludes any mention of marijuana dispensaries in the list of places where people are prohibited from using welfare, formally known as Temporary Assistance for Needy Families, or TANF.

The law was updated in 2012, prior to Colorado’s decision in May 2013 to legalize the production and sale of marijuana. The law gives HHS the power to withhold funds to states that allow people to use welfare money at liquor stores, casinos, and “establishments in which performers disrobe or perform in an unclothed state for entertainment.”