Missouri will not deprive cannabis consumers of welfare benefits

Based on the terms of the amended policy, some individuals who are accepted for welfare benefits may still be asked to attend a drug screening. However, they will be able to waiver the screening, should they so desire.

Bethan Rose Jenkins, Cannabis News Writer/Editorial

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Following a months-long review by Governor Mike Parson’s Administration, Missourians who claim welfare money will still be entitled to obtain medical cannabis.

A statement detailing the Administration’s new ruling was submitted to the Post-Dispatch. It outlined how individuals enrolled in Missouri’s Temporary Assistance to Needy (TANF) program will no longer have their benefits stopped if they return a positive test for cannabis.

Previously, even if participants were in possession of a medical cannabis card issued to them by a licensed doctor when they failed a drugs test, they would have been excluded from the program.

Thanks to the Administration’s decision to allow medical cannabis patients continued access to their welfare benefits, a voter-approved initiative that passed with 65 percent of the ‘yes’ vote in November 2018 is beginning to take shape.

Missouri’s cannabis law previously required that all welfare applicants be tested for drug use

When Amendment 2 was passed in Missouri, cannabis cultivation and production became legal statewide. Patients were granted access to the plant if they qualified as a sufferer of one of the 10 debilitating illnesses featured in the eligibility criteria; inclusive of cancer, chronic pain, epilepsy, glaucoma, Parkinson’s disease and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

However, a law was signed into effect in 2011 by former Governor Jay Nixon, establishing a screening program to weed out welfare-claiming applicants who consume cannabis.

A state requirement made it compulsory that officials confirm whether or not applicants are drug users before reviewing their application for enrollment in the TANF program.

On a monthly basis, the program grants 21,800 individuals and 9,400 families with monetary assistance. Failure to attend one of the drug screening appointments means that potential applicants previously risked not being eligible for benefits for up to three years.

Based on the terms of the amended policy, some individuals who are accepted for welfare benefits may still be asked to attend a drug screening. However, they will be able to waiver the screening, should they so desire. It should be noted that, in this case, the waiver would prompt an individual to attend a substance abuse treatment program.

Sen. Jamilah Nasheed previously pushed to lift resurrections on cannabis access for welfare applicants

Previous attempts to safeguard welfare applicants from mandatory drug screening were made by state Sen. Jamilah Nasheed, D-St. Louis back in January. Unfortunately, his measure never got a look-in from lawmakers.

Thousands of nursing home residents have been affected by cannabis consumption bans initiated by the Missouri Veterans Commission (MVC). The ban left 1,350 nursing home residents without access to medical cannabis. 

Why? Simply because it meant that the MVC could continue to accept funding from the government if they restricted residents’ access to weed. Over $80 million is funded by feds to run nursing homes throughout Cameron, Cape Girardeau, Mexico, Mount Vernon, St. James and Warrensburg. 

Nonetheless, the recent amendment is good news for those who claim benefits and require cannabis as a medicine, since it means that the restrictions have officially been lifted.