Lifetime Ban On Food Stamps Lifted For Recovering Drug Offenders

Press Release September 29, 2004
Media Contact

Glenn Backes at (916) 202-2538

SACRAMENTO- Today, California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger signed legislation to lift the federal lifetime ban on food stamps for ex-drug possession offenders who have served their time and demonstrate they no longer use illegal drugs.

“The Governor showed great compassion in signing this bill,” said Glenn Backes of the Drug Policy Alliance, “There are so many disenfranchised parents out there finding it difficult to get back on their feet. Denying them food stamps instills a feeling of hopelessness that encourages a return to drugs.”

The cost of food stamp benefits is almost entirely born by the federal government. An analysis by the Assembly Appropriations Committee suggests the new law will bring in millions in federal dollars to the state economy. When the federal government passed its lifetime ban on welfare and food stamps for drug offenders in 1996, it allowed states to opt-out or limit the ban. California now joins thirty-one other states that have repealed or amended the ban.

The measure authored by Assemblyman Mark Leno (D-San Francisco) is supported by hunger and nutrition advocates, law enforcement associations, drug treatment groups and Attorney General Bill Lockyer.

In recent years, the Department of Agriculture reformed the food stamp program, decreasing the ability for fraud and misuse. The new program implements an electronic debit card system. The card resembles a bankcard and can only be used to purchase food at participating grocery stores.

Backes added, “This is direct action, proving the Governor wants to help those who are trying to help themselves. It helps families, it helps retailers and farmers. It’s good policy for California.”

The new law will go into effect January 1, 2005.

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A young woman holds a sign that says "End the Drug War."

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