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Michigan Senate committee approves food assistance for convicted drug users

State Sen. Jim Ananich believes Michigan should opt out of a federal ban on people with multiple drug convictions from receiving SNAP benefits.
State Sen. Jim Ananich believes Michigan should opt out of a federal ban on people with multiple drug convictions from receiving SNAP benefits.(WABI)
Published: Sep. 22, 2020 at 2:46 PM EDT
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LANSING, Mich. (WJRT) - A Michigan Senate committee approved a bill Tuesday that would allow people convicted of drug crimes, including marijuana offenses, to receive food assistance.

Current state and federal laws prohibit people with more than one drug-related felony on their criminal record from receiving SNAP benefits. Democrat State Sen. Jim Ananich of Flint said the laws create unnecessary hurdles for people who already serve a sentence for their crimes.

“How can we expect drug users to rehabilitate if they cannot access a healthy meal?” he said. “Holding food assistance out of reach as a way to continue penalizing those who have already served their sentence is unnecessarily cruel. Instead of keeping people down for life, we should be making sure they have opportunities to recover and get their feet underneath them.”

National welfare reform legislation passed in 1996 banned people with multiple drug felonies from participating in the SNAP program, but states can modify or opt out of the ban. It extends to convictions involving marijuana, which is legal for recreational and medicinal use in Michigan but illegal under federal law.

So far, 24 states and Washington, D.C. have decided to opt out and allow SNAP benefits for people with a drug record. Ananich said Michigan should join them because the government should not deny basic needs like food to anyone based on drug convictions.

“This policy does not serve the people of our state,” he said. “It can be particularly harmful to those who are the sole provider for their family."

The Michigan Senate Committee on Families, Seniors and Veterans approved the legislation. It will need to pass the full Senate and Michigan House before heading to Gov. Gretchen Whitmer for consideration.

Copyright 2020 WJRT. All rights reserved.

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