Missouri Mulls Food Stamp Ban for Drug Felons

By McCarton Ackerman 03/07/12

Murderers currently receive state assistance, but drug offenders are urged to look elsewhere.

Food stamps are a lifeline to millions.
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Missouri lawmakers are voting today on whether to overturn the state's lifetime ban on food stamps for convicted drug felons. A bill sponsored by state Representative Bob Nance would let people have their status overturned by completing a drug treatment program, submitting to voluntary testing to demonstrate sobriety, waiting four years after their offense, or complying with court-ordered obligations. States can opt out of, or modify, the 1996 federal law on food stamps and drug felons, but Missouri and nine other states haven't. "Somebody can molest somebody and receive food stamps," says Nance. "They can murder somebody and they can still receive food stamps. Only the drug felon cannot receive food stamps." Supporters of the bill say nutritional support could help keep people out of prison, saving taxpayers money while bringing an additional $7 million in federal food stamp dollars to the state. But opponents say that having food stamp cards could enable addicts to score drugs, while removing the motivation to find work. ""There are a few of us that still believe that the closest thing to eternity on Earth is a government program," says Sen. Chuck Purgason. "It's easier to live on a government program than it is to go out and get a job, so that's why entitlements continue expanding." According to the Department of Social Services, 440,000 Missouri households receive food stamps—up from 300,000 in 2007—at a cost of $120 million.

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McCarton Ackerman is a freelance writer and editor living in Portland, Oregon. He has been a contributor for The Fix since October 2011, writing on a wide range of topics ranging from medical marijuana in Colorado to the world's sexiest drug smugglers. Follow him on Linkedin and Twitter.