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Bill Would Keep Arizona Welfare Recipients From Using Benefits To Buy Prescription Pot

State lawmakers are moving to keep people from using their welfare benefits to purchase medical marijuana, at least directly.

Arizona uses Electronic Benefit Transfer (EBT) cards to provide cash benefits for eligible recipients. Under current law, they cannot be used at liquor stores, racing facilities, tribal casinos and strip clubs. Rep. Kate Brophy McGee, R-Phoenix, wants to add medical marijuana dispensaries to the list.

But Rep. Randall Friese, D-Tucson, pointed out that welfare recipients can legally use their EBT cards to purchase prescription medications.

"I have a little trouble just saying you can get your prescription medications but not your medical marijuana. Medical marijuana is used for a variety of things that help people, chronic pain, glaucoma, anorexia, intractable nausea," Friese said.

But Brophy McGee said she's not buying the comparison, and not only because marijuana remains illegal under federal law. She questioned whether the 2010 voter-approved law is working as advertised or is really just a thinly disguised way of people getting the drug for recreational purposes.

"We know that the preponderance of subscribers are young men with chronic pain issues, and that the biggest pot buy, medical marijuana buy, is December 31st," she said.

But Friese said voters have made their decision that marijuana is a legitimate drug for health needs and the Legislature should not be second guessing which ones can be bought with welfare benefits.