Impact of new marijuana law on welfare recipients unclear
JEFFERSON CITY (AP) — Missouri voters have approved medical marijuana, but it remains unclear whether thousands of welfare recipients will lose benefits if they opt for it.
The Missouri Department of Social Services told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch that the question remains under review, and offered no timeline for a decision.
"The Department of Social Services is currently studying the issue and will make a decision on how to proceed at the appropriate time," spokeswoman Rebecca Woelfel said.
Voters on Nov. 6 overwhelmingly approved Amendment 2, legalizing marijuana and marijuana-infused products to help patients who suffer from serious illnesses ranging from Parkinson's disease to cancer to post-traumatic stress disorder.
A 2011 law resulted in a program to screen Temporary Assistance for Needy Families program applicants for drug use. The program provides cash benefits to an average of about 25,000 recipients each month.
Recipients are asked about drug use and some must take a drug test. Those who fail to show up for the test or do not complete it are ineligible for benefits for three years.
Other agencies also are determining the impact of the new amendment. Officials have not made decisions on whether to bar medical marijuana users from certain state jobs. Among those sorting it out is the Department of Corrections.
"The department has been discussing this issue, of course, but we haven't proposed any policy changes," agency spokeswoman Karen Pojmann.
The new law prohibits consumption of marijuana in jails and correctional facilities. But Missouri Correctional Officers Association director Gary Gross said it remains unknown whether someone who has a medical marijuana card would be barred from working at the agency.
The Office of Administration, which oversees personnel rules for Missouri's state government workforce, has not weighed in on how medical marijuana will be viewed during the hiring and employment process, spokeswoman Brittany Ruess said.