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Can’t use state welfare for Recreational Cannabis

BOSTON — More than two dozen welfare recipients have tried to use their state-issued electronic benefit cards to buy legal marijuana, according to newly released data.
Welfare recipients cannot buy legal marijuana products with their EBT cards, but the state Department of Transitional Assistance, which oversees the program, has “blocked” more than 100 ATMs and other point-of-sale terminals in or near 20 recreational pot shops since November from being used to take out cash.

That has prevented 28 attempted purchases, totaling $1,825, according to the agency.
“The Department of Transitional Assistance’s responsibility is to ensure that all benefits are used appropriately,” the agency said in a statement. “Recreational marijuana establishments are prohibited by law from accepting electronic benefit transfer cards.”
Electronic benefit transfer cards work like debit cards, allowing recipients to withdraw cash at ATMs. Besides pot, welfare recipients can’t buy alcohol, tobacco or other prohibited items with their cards, but they can still take out cash from ATMs to buy whatever they want.

Massachusetts is one of 11 states that have legalized recreational marijuana’s use and sale. It is one of 33 states and the District of Columbia that allow pot for medical purposes.

The 2016 voter-approved pot law allows adults age 21 and over to possess up to 10 ounces of weed, and it authorizes regulated cultivation and retail sales.

Because most medical and recreational pot shops are a cash-only businesses, they have on-site ATMs allowing customers to make withdrawals.

State officials didn’t disclose locations of the attempted transactions — or whether there were any successful transactions — but the agency’s statement pointed out that it “has worked closely with the Cannabis Control Commission and licensed retailers to prevent prohibited transactions from occurring.”

Once a pot shop gets approval from state regulators to open, the Department of Transitional Assistance sends a letter to the owners detailing the laws on prohibited purchases and penalties for violations. State inspectors visit the shops to document ATMs, cash registers and other point-of-sale devices and monitor transactions to determine of anyone with an EBT card is trying to buy pot.
Signs are posted above ATMs in many of the pot shops advising patrons that they won’t be able to make withdrawals using their EBT cards.