DPA Applauds Repeal of the SNAP Drug Felony Ban’s Inclusion in New Farm Bill Proposals

Statement May 2, 2024
Media Contact

Maggie Hart [email protected]

House Republican Agriculture Chairman Glenn “GT” Thompson (PA-15) and Senate Democratic Agriculture Chairman Debbie Stabenow (MI) both released their vision and overview for the Farm Bill, and both reference their intentions to lift the lifetime ban on those with drug felony convictions from accessing SNAP benefits.

In response, Hanna Sharif-Kazemi, Policy Coordinator of the Office of Federal Affairs at Drug Policy Alliance (DPA) released the following statement:

“House Republicans and Senate Democrats agree: Everyone should be able to access critical assistance like food, and lifting the SNAP drug felony ban is essential for successful reentry. It is also essential to protect vulnerable populations, such as children, veterans, and elderly people from becoming unintended victims of food insecurity and hunger, or having to choose between putting food on the table or having enough money for rent. We urge Congress to remain committed to this policy goal while fully funding nutrition and food access for all populations who need it.”

Background: In the 1990s, Congress passed a lifetime ban on those with drug convictions from accessing the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), and the law is still in effect today. States can fully opt out—28 states have done so—but others still bar individuals entirely or impose onerous and costly requirements that create barriers to restoring eligibility after someone has served their time. South Carolina still has the full ban in place.

Barring access to basic nutritional assistance as individuals return to communities undermines successful transition to the community following involvement in the criminal legal system. Repealing the drug felony ban enables returning individuals to focus on securing employment and housing rather than figuring out how they will put food on the table for themselves and their families. Food security during an individual’s reentry creates better, more stable conditions, which decrease people’s risk of returning to use, being reincarcerated for possession or use, and of potential overdose. Considering that 91% of individuals suffer from food insecurity and people are vulnerable to fatal overdose upon release from prison, the harms of this ban cannot be overstated.

Denying food assistance because of a past drug conviction has no public safety or crime deterrent value. Rather, evidence indicates that the federal SNAP drug felony ban increases recidivism, resulting in higher rates of re-arrest for those with felony drug convictions. A 2023 study examining the ban’s impact found that, at any given time, it increased a person’s risk of arrest by 3.2% for up to five years post-conviction.

The SNAP ban impacts the entire household, including children, veterans, and the elderly. Two-thirds of SNAP recipients are in families with children, and research shows that increased SNAP accessibility significantly reduces the rate of cases filed with child protective services. SNAP benefits also strengthen families by creating more nurturing home environments which lessen stress and anxiety for children. These conditions create unnecessary food insecurity and stress, leading to preventable health issues for adults and children.


About the Drug Policy Alliance

The Drug Policy Alliance is the leading organization in the U.S. working to end the drug war, repair its harms, and build a non-punitive, equitable, and regulated drug market. We envision a world that embraces the full humanity of people, regardless of their relationship to drugs. We advocate that the regulation of drugs be grounded in evidence, health, equity, and human rights. In collaboration with other movements and at every policy level, we change laws, advance justice, and save lives. Learn more at drugpolicy.org.

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