A few states in the country have been allowing food stamp users to deduct the cost of their medical marijuana in order to meet the program’s income eligibility requirements.
The states allowed the deductions under the SNAP (Supplement Nutrition Assistance Program) medical deduction, which applies to disabled or elderly food stamp recipients. Eligible individuals are allowed to deduct “allowable medical expenses” from their income to meet food stamp eligibility requirements. However, it has now been made clear that medical marijuana is not considered an “allowable” medical expense.
Last month the Department of Agriculture sent out a memo telling states that they need to stop the practice of allowing medical marijuana to be included in the deductions because the drug is illegal under federal law.
Lizbeth Silbermann, USDA program development director, wrote a memo explaining that this practice is illegal and cannot be permitted. Silbermann wrote, “FNS is now reaffirming its long standing policy that a household may not utilize the SNAP medical deduction for the cost of any substance considered illegal under Federal law.”
Silbermann continued to explain that marijuana is not an “allowable” medical expense and that the states must “cease this practice immediately” or risk facing penalties.
Silbermann’s memo came after repeated criticism from Republican lawmakers. Some politicians believe that the USDA makes it too easy for people to be on the food stamp program.
The states where the illegal deductions took place included Oregon, New Mexico, and Maine. In April, over 46 million people were in the food stamp program, which costs $80 billion annually.