New York State Decriminalizes Recreational Marijuana Use
New York state this week decriminalized recreational marijuana use, Reuters reports. Possession of small amounts of marijuana will be punished with fines instead of jail time.
A growing number of states are allowing people convicted of drug crimes to qualify for welfare and food stamps, according to The Wall Street Journal. Alabama and Texas lifted restrictions on food stamps for ex-offenders this year. California and Missouri eliminated their bans last year.
Alabama also allows former drug offenders who submit to drug testing to receive welfare, the article notes.
A 1996 federal law disqualifies people convicted of state and federal drug offenses from receiving benefits, but allows states to make exceptions.
Drug offenders are eligible for the federal welfare program known as Temporary Assistance for Needy Families in 12 states. Almost two dozen states allow ex-offenders to participate in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program.
At least 18 states have partially lifted the ban on food stamps for drug offenders. At least 27 states have eased the ban on cash assistance, without abolishing it, according to the Congressional Research Service.
Almost half of federal prisoners and about 16 percent of state prisoners are serving time for drug offenses, the article notes. Little is known about whether ex-offenders who have access to federal benefits are less likely to return to prison.
A study published in 2013 by a professor at Yale School of Medicine found more than 90 percent of recently released prisoners did not have reliable access to food. More than one-third said they had gone at least one entire day without eating in the past month.