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Drug Felon Food Stamp Bill Advances


arrest drug felon food stamps missouriBy Dan Viets, J.D., SMCR Board Chair

People who have been convicted of a drug-related felony lose eligibility for food stamps for life under an act of Congress passed several years ago.  However, Congress allowed states to choose not to follow this law. Forty other states have opted out of this ridiculous and counterproductive law.

Missouri loses an estimated seven million dollars each year because of its failure to opt out of this law. Only those convicted of drug felonies suffer this disability. Those who commit rape, robbery, murder or treason can still receive food stamps.

Food stamps primarily benefit single mothers of young children. They provide the most basic necessity of life to those who would otherwise go hungry.

Two bills to allow Missouri to opt out of the food stamp law are presently pending in the Missouri General Assembly. Senate Bill 346 was heard on March 5 in the Senate Governmental Accountability and Fiscal Oversight Committee, but had not moved out of committee until this week. House Bill 838 was heard by the House Committee on Children, Families, and Persons with Disabilities on Tuesday, April 23.

I testified in support of the bill on behalf of SMCR and NORML at the hearing Tuesday. I pointed out to the Committee that the Speaker of the House, Mr. Tim Jones, had failed to refer the bill to them until very recently, but I urged them to take immediate action now that the bill was in their hands and forward it to the full House for a vote.

After the hearing on that bill, I met with the lobbyist for the Missouri Association for Social Welfare (MASW), Annette Driver. Together, we visited the offices of several members of the Senate Committee, and learned that the Committee would be meeting again the following day. The staff of the Chair of the Committee told us that if any member of the Committee would move for that bill to be passed out, he would permit a vote on it. We then visited the offices of Senator Paul LeVota and Senator Jamilah Nasheed and asked them to make that motion.

On Wednesday, April 24, the Senate Committee voted 5 to 1 to forward SB 346 to the full Senate. The House Committee also voted HB 838 out of committee. Therefore, both bills are now moving forward toward a vote by the full House and Senate.

This legislation now has a very real chance of passing this year. The Governor will almost certainly sign it if it is passed by the General Assembly. Passage of the bill would mean that seven million dollars of our tax money, which is sent to Washington each year and is now distributed to people in other states, will instead come back to benefit citizens of Missouri. Even those who do not receive food stamps will benefit because this money will create new jobs and stimulate our state’s economy.

Every member of the Missouri General Assembly is likely to have an opportunity to vote on this bill before the legislature adjourns on Friday, May 17. Please contact both your Missouri State Senator and your Missouri State Representative immediately and urge them to vote in favor of Senate Bill 346 and House Bill 838, the bills which would restore eligibility for food stamps to people convicted of felony drug possession offenses. Many, if not most, of these people were convicted of possessing only marijuana.


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  1. mikotheawesome on

    I am young and have a chronic pain problem (caused by falling in the kitchen at work, something my employers denied ever happening). I am saddened by this because I often feel there will never be a job where I am not expected to be able to lift at least 40 lbs at any given time and lift, bend, and stoop all day long with no breaks. I work hard, I don’t even WANT government assistance at 23, but I don’t know what else to DO when I can hardly get out of bed without pain medication many days. :'(

  2. This is happening to me in northern my right now. I have a min wage job and can’t afford to feed myself longer than a few days after I get paid. Its so bad now that I get chest pains and can’t eat when I try. I committed that crime years ago. Now I suffer for a mistake I’ve already done the time for. I don’t know what to do anymore.

  3. If they dont get goverment assistance what are they gonna do ? They will rob steal kill to feed themselves and their kids.. Might as well keep crime lower than it is.. Let them feed themselves everybody needs food.. Not right to keep someone from eating..

  4. I know AZ does because i wasn’t going to qualify except then i did because my charge was actually called ATTEMPTED possession ha loopholes i guess, but i don’t know who else might

  5. Not likely a constitutional use of authority. Laws of the sort need a “rational basis” to treat groops of people differently. I can’t pass on whether witholding entitletements from felons is consitutional or not but there would seem to be no rational basis to feed some felons who are violent and starve offenders. While defying logic is not the same thing as defying the logic of the law; this seems to defy both.

    Often times the problem with legislative bodies is they behave like spoiled childern. The problem is their rants and tantrums become law. In my city you cannon lay down on the sidewalk without a permit (with some expections) because a biker once offended the chief of police by taking his leisure in front of a taven.



  7. Same here, there’s far too many of us out there. Although I’d say this country has been in hell-in-a-hand-basket for quite some time, if not for middle class America, minorities, if not that, expansion of our territories. Our entire history is rooted in hypocrisy and lies, as much good as there is, there seems to be an overflow of bad :(

  8. It’s a good thing I don’t have any felonies, if it wasn’t for the $200.00 a month I get in food stamps I wouldn’t have anything at all, literally, I have zero income and it has been that way for years. Not by choice, there is NO work for broken middle aged men any more. I am a reject from society, thrown away without any further use. All I want to do is work a job that won’t cause more harm to my body. That’s a joke, employers don’t hire people who aren’t willing to beat themselves down for low wages. I have done that all my life and here I am today waiting to be removed from my home and put to the streets. This country went to hell in a hand basket.

  9. Dave TheWAve on

    I am 1 of those people.I have MUSCULAR DYSTROPHY and was CONVICTED of a FELONY for a MISDEMEANOR amount of weed,HOWEVER IN THE STATE OF INDIANA your SECOND arrest for a MISDEMEANOR AMOUNT can be jumped up to a FELONY,This was Christmas day of 96 THEY HAD TO BACK UP TO 1980 for my ARREST IN TEXAS on a MISDEMEANOR AMOUNT,I have been on DISABILITY since 2002 living on BELOW POVERTY LEVEL INCOME ever since with NO HELP on my grocery bills,THIS IS A VERY STUPID LAW.

  10. Misty Samples on

    Drugs are not as bad as murder and rape and the other things listed… nobody should be denied a way to eat and if u are going to punish people who have felonies it should be all felonies not just drug related do u think we want our tax dollars going to a murder or rapiest and allowing them to get free foodstamps they need to look over that law again and re vote or something because that is stupid….help people into rehab for drugs don’t kick them anymore when they are already down they just need a lil help back up and by taking away foodstamps then it prompts people to either steal or sell more drugs to eat and provide for there families so stand back and take a better look…

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