Colorado considers ban on welfare cards at pot shops

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Colorado considers ban on welfare cards at pot shops
Lakewood, CO - MARCH, 4: Sales associate, Crystal Guess handles a jar of cannabis inside a Good Meds medical cannabis center in Lakewood, Colorado, U.S., on Monday, March 4, 2013. This is at a Good Meds medical cannabis center in Lakewood, and is one of the facilities that Kristi Kelly, Co-Founder of Good Meds Network, operates. (Photo by Matthew Staver/For The Washington Post via Getty Images)
MEAUX, FRANCE - AUGUST 25: A field of legal cannabis plants selected for their low content of THC grows on August 25, 2014 near Meaux, France. Cannabis is the source of hemp, which is used in a variety of applications including insulation, textiles, rope and paper. France is the second largest producer of industrial hemp in the world after China. (Photo by Sean Gallup/Getty Images)
This photo taken on July 15, 2014 shows a cannabis plant growing in a garden in Cologne, Germany. A German court ruled for the first time on July 22 that seriously ill patients may grow their own marijuana for medical purposes in certain cases. AFP PHOTO / DPA / OLIVER BERG /GRMANY OUT (Photo credit should read OLIVER BERG/AFP/Getty Images)
DENVER, CO - DECEMBER 30: A marijuana plant grows under a black light at 3D Cannabis Center in Denver, December 30 2013. Starting January 1st Colorado will be the first U.S. state to allow recreational marijuana. (Photo by RJ Sangosti/The Denver Post via Getty Images)
Model ChaCha VaVoom shows her style at the HempCon medical marijuana show, May 24, 2013 at the Los Angeles Convention Center. Thousands of marijuana enthusiasts gathered for the three-day event for exhibits of medical marijuana dispensaries, collectives, evaluation services, legal services and equipment and accessories. Under California state law, people suffering from chronic diseases have the right to grow, buy and use marijuana for medical purposes when recommended by a doctor. In 2003 the Medical Marijuana Protection Act, established an identification card system for medical marijuana patients. AFP PHOTO / ROBYN BECK (Photo credit should read ROBYN BECK/AFP/Getty Images)
Attendees look at marijuana paraphenelia displays at the HempCon medical marijuana show, May 24, 2013 at the Los Angeles Convention Center. Thousands of marijuana enthusiasts gathered for the three-day event for exhibits of medical marijuana dispensaries, collectives, evaluation services, legal services and equipment and accessories. Under California state law, people suffering from chronic diseases have the right to grow, buy and use marijuana for medical purposes when recommended by a doctor. In 2003 the Medical Marijuana Protection Act, established an identification card system for medical marijuana patients. AFP PHOTO / ROBYN BECK (Photo credit should read ROBYN BECK/AFP/Getty Images)
TO GO WITH AFP STORY by Desiree Martin A picture taken on April 12, 2013 shows plants of marijuana at the plantation of the Sibaratas Med Can association in Mogan on the southwest coast of the island of Gran Canaria. The plants grow from cuttings for approximately two months and then blossom before being harvested, dried, stored in jars for a month and later processed to be consumed on site. Spanish law prohibits the possession of soft drugs like cannabis in public and its growth to be sold for profit is illegal. But the law does tolerate growing cannabis for personal use and its consumption in private. Dozens of private marijuana smoking clubs operate across Spain that take advantage of this legal loophole that serve cannabis users who do not want to get their drugs from the streets. AFP PHOTO / DESIREE MARTIN (Photo credit should read DESIREE MARTIN/AFP/Getty Images)
Marijuana plants grow at the MedMar Healing Center, a medical-marijuana dispensary, in San Jose, California, U.S., on Thursday, Feb. 7, 2013. San Jose is the medical-marijuana capital of Silicon Valley with 106 clinics, about twice as many per square mile as Los Angeles. Photographer: David Paul Morris/Bloomberg via Getty Images
WASHINGTON, DC - NOV 04: Adam Eidinger, co-owner of Capitol Hemp is a leader in the push to fully legalize the possession and use (of up to two ounces) of marijuana and the possession and cultivation of up to three marijuana plants. He was at the after-party for the Yes on 71 event at the Meridian Pint bar as early returns were in favor of the proposition. (Photo by Michael S. Williamson/The Washington Post via Getty Images)
WASHINGTON, DC - NOV 04: Lots of initiative 71 supporters were happy as early returns showed the pro-pot law leading early in the evening. The after-party for the Yes on 71 event was held at the Meridian Pint bar. (Photo by Michael S. Williamson/The Washington Post via Getty Images)
WASHINGTON, DC - NOV 04: (L) Adam Eidinger, co-owner of Capitol Hemp is a leader in the push to fully legalize the possession and use (of up to two ounces) of marijuana and the possession and cultivation of up to three marijuana plants. He was at the polling place at Burke E.S. in Washington, D.C. lobbying voters as they arrived to vote. At right is fellow hemp supporter Zack Pesavendo. (Photo by Michael S. Williamson/The Washington Post via Getty Images)
AURORA, CO - OCTOBER 13: Ray Saccomano, from Aurora, gives one strain of marijuana the smell test. Saccomano says he is glad to have a store close to where he lives. Euflora, the first retail marijuana store in Aurora, opens on Monday, Oct. 13, 2014 at 6260 S. Gun Club Road. The store had no lines of people waiting outside prior to opening, but saw a small, steady crowd as the doors opened. (Kathryn Scott Osler/The Denver Post via Getty Images)
Marijuana (cannabis) is arranged for a photograph inside the Evergreen Apothecary in Denver, Colorado, U.S., on Thursday, Jan. 9, 2014. Colorado has just legalized the commercial production, sale, and recreational use of marijuana, while Washington State will begin its own pot liberalization initiative at the end of February. On Jan. 8, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo said his state would join 20 others and the District of Columbia in allowing the drug for medical purposes. Photographer: Matthew Staver/Bloomberg via Getty Images
BETHPAGE, NY - AUGUST 30: A closeup view of marijuana in a grinder as photographed on August 30, 2014 in Bethpage, New York. (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
BERLIN, GERMANY - AUGUST 09: A participant smokes a marijuana joint while marching in the annual Hemp Parade (Hanfparade) on August 9, 2014 in Berlin, Germany. Supporters of cannabis legalization are hoping legalized sale in parts of the USA will increase the likelihood of legalization in Germany. The city of Berlin is considering allowing the sale of cannabis in one city district. (Photo by Sean Gallup/Getty Images)
An employee pulls marijuana out of a large canister for a customer at the LoDo Wellness Center in downtown Denver, Colorado, U.S., on Thursday, Jan. 9, 2014. Colorado has just legalized the commercial production, sale, and recreational use of marijuana, while Washington State will begin its own pot liberalization initiative at the end of February. On Jan. 8, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo said his state would join 20 others and the District of Columbia in allowing the drug for medical purposes. Photographer: Matthew Staver/Bloomberg via Getty Images
Marijuana (cannabis) is arranged for a photograph inside the Evergreen Apothecary in Denver, Colorado, U.S., on Thursday, Jan. 9, 2014. Colorado has just legalized the commercial production, sale, and recreational use of marijuana, while Washington State will begin its own pot liberalization initiative at the end of February. On Jan. 8, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo said his state would join 20 others and the District of Columbia in allowing the drug for medical purposes. Photographer: Matthew Staver/Bloomberg via Getty Images
CALISTOGA, CA. FEB. 4: Gordon Brownell is a lawyer, and Republican, who ran for first campaign for legalization of marijuana in California in 1972. Some pot and a pipe, the package is from one of the first medical marijuana stores in California
Marijuana (cannabis) is arranged for a photograph inside the Evergreen Apothecary in Denver, Colorado, U.S., on Thursday, Jan. 9, 2014. Colorado has just legalized the commercial production, sale, and recreational use of marijuana, while Washington State will begin its own pot liberalization initiative at the end of February. On Jan. 8, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo said his state would join 20 others and the District of Columbia in allowing the drug for medical purposes. Photographer: Matthew Staver/Bloomberg via Getty Images
Marijuana plant clones stand for sale in The Green Solution dispensary in Denver, Colorado, U.S., on Thursday, Jan. 9, 2014. Colorado has just legalized the commercial production, sale, and recreational use of marijuana, while Washington State will begin its own pot liberalization initiative at the end of February. On Jan. 8, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo said his state would join 20 others and the District of Columbia in allowing the drug for medical purposes. Photographer: Matthew Staver/Bloomberg via Getty Images
A man holds a giant joint during a march for the legalization of cannabis in Santiago, on May 18, 2013, as part of the 2013 Global Marijuana March which is being held in hundreds of cities worldwide AFP PHOTO / Martin BERNETTI (Photo credit should read MARTIN BERNETTI/AFP/Getty Images)
WASHINGTON, DC - OCT10: Medical marijuana is dispensed at the Takoma Wellness Center, October 10, 2014, in Takoma Park, DC. Marijuana legalization in the district is medicinal at this point but activists are looking for a broader relaxation of the law. (Photo by Evelyn Hockstein/For The Washington Post via Getty Images)
A 'legalize' poster for a referendum about legalizing marijuana is placed with mayoral posters in Washington, DC on October 31, 2014. Ballot Initiative 71 would legalize the cultivation and possession of limited amounts of marijuana in the District of Columbia. AFP PHOTO/YURI GRIPAS (Photo credit should read YURI GRIPAS/AFP/Getty Images)
BERLIN, GERMANY - AUGUST 09: A sticker calling for the legalization of marijuana lies on the street at the annual Hemp Parade (Hanfparade) on August 9, 2014 in Berlin, Germany. Supporters of cannabis legalization are hoping legalized sale in parts of the USA will increase the likelihood of legalization in Germany. The city of Berlin is considering allowing the sale of cannabis in one city district. (Photo by Sean Gallup/Getty Images)
BERLIN, GERMANY - AUGUST 09: Participants, including two with a marijuana leaf emblem on their bellies, dance at the annual Hemp Parade (Hanfparade) on August 9, 2014 in Berlin, Germany. Supporters of cannabis legalization are hoping legalized sale in parts of the USA will increase the likelihood of legalization in Germany. The city of Berlin is considering allowing the sale of cannabis in one city district. (Photo by Sean Gallup/Getty Images)
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DENVER (AP) -- Welfare money or food stamps for marijuana? It's an urban legend that won't go away in Colorado, and state lawmakers this year are poised to pass a law clarifying that public benefit cards can't be used at dispensary ATMs.

A bill facing its first hearing next week in the state Senate would add marijuana businesses and strip clubs to the list of Colorado businesses where electronic benefits cards - called EBTs - can't be used to withdraw cash. Liquor stores, casinos and gun shops already have such limitations.

Republican Sen. Vicki Marble said marijuana dispensaries need to be added to avoid possible federal intervention if there's evidence of public benefits being spent on pot.

"We stand to lose a lot if we don't show we are trying" to prevent tax money for pot, Marble said.

"The growers here put in a lot of time and effort. A raid would be absolutely devastating to our state."

Marble's bill failed last year amid concerns that because pot shops are concentrated in poor neighborhoods, dispensary ATMs may be the closest source of cash for people without a bank.

This year, Democrats say they support the idea. They say that adding dispensaries to the list may help prevent federal intervention.

Republican Sen. Jeff Sessions of Alabama last year suggested a new federal law banning the use of EBT cards at dispensaries. Currently there's no national standard on public benefit cards at dispensaries.

In Washington state, a 2012 law blocks businesses that ban those under 18 - including strip clubs, bars and now licensed pot shops - from letting people use EBTs to withdraw money.

Despite Washington's law, there were a couple of reported instances over the summer of people using those cards at pot-shop ATMs. The state responded by instructing the new marijuana businesses to install a code in their ATMs preventing further in-store welfare-for-weed transactions.

Nevertheless, isolated cases have continued as more pot shops have opened. In about a dozen instances from September through November, welfare recipients withdrew about $540 from pot-shop ATMs, John Wiley, a spokesman for the state Department of Social and Health Services, said Friday. Those businesses too were reminded not to allow benefit cards to be used in their ATMs.

Colorado state Rep. Dan Pabon, D-Denver, said it's time for Colorado to do the same. He supports a new law clarifying that welfare cards can't being used to withdraw cash at pot shops.

"I don't think a strip club or a liquor store wants to be out of compliance, and neither does a dispensary," Pabon said.

Marijuana industry groups have either supported the bills or taken no position against them.

"We believe this is good for our industry," said Tyler Henson, president of the Colorado Cannabis Chamber of Commerce, which represents dispensaries and edible marijuana makers.

The nascent marijuana industry has been dogged for years by rumors of people using food stamps and welfare money to buy weed. Even without the requirement, many dispensary ATMs are already set to decline EBT cards.

"This fix is not something that is extremely difficult," Henson said.

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