Politics Northwest

U.S. Rep. Dave Reichert on Tuesday introduced a bill to ban the use of welfare-benefit cards at stores selling marijuana, adding them to a prohibited list that includes casinos, liquor stores, strip clubs and tattoo parlors.

Reichert, a Republican from Auburn, joined 11 other lawmakers in sponsoring the Preserving Welfare for Needs Not Weed Act.

The bill would prevent low-income recipients of Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) benefits from using their cards to buy pot, or to withdraw cash from ATMs inside such stores.

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Reichert cited a report in the conservative National Review Online that Colorado welfare recipients had used their benefits cards 64 times in January to withdraw cash totaling $5,475 at places selling pot after that state legalized recreational marijuana. That was out of a total of 42,000 electronic-benefits-transfer withdrawals that month.

“The fact that some people are using welfare for weed is outrageous,” Reichert said in a statement. “It’s offensive to taxpayers working to pay for these benefits, and it’s insulting to low-income families who truly need help to make ends meet.”

Washington state also legalized recreational marijuana, and its first stores could open in late spring.

Washington state already requires casinos, liquor stores and other prohibited businesses to program their ATMs and point-of-sales machines not to accept welfare-benefit cards, called Quest Cards.

Reichert’s legislation applies only to welfare cards, not food stamps, which also use electronic benefits cards.

Reichert’s spokeswoman said that was because the Ways and Means Human Resources Subcommittee, which Reichert chairs, has jurisdiction only over the former.

Washington’s food-stamps cards cannot be used for nonfood purchases such as toilet paper, or for hot prepared foods.

Kyung M. Song: 202-383-6108 or ksong@seattletimes.com. Twitter: @KyungMSong