Uprooting the Drug War Discussion Series: Public Benefits, the Drug War, and Denial of Benefits

Even though public benefits, like Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF, or welfare) and Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP, or food stamps) help people better meet basic needs, states have limited access to these programs.

In 1996, Congress imposed a lifetime ban on individuals convicted of a drug felony from receiving TANF and/or SNAP benefits. Federal law still requires states to deny benefits to people with felony drug convictions or to affirmatively opt out of or modify the ban. Over 25 states have instituted modified bans to limit TANF and SNAP eligibility for people with felony drug convictions. Nine states permanently bar people with felony drug convictions from TANF benefits and one does so for SNAP benefits. Some state-level policies also require TANF and SNAP recipients to submit to regular drug testing or complete treatment programs in order to maintain benefits. Those who refuse to take a drug test or test positive for drugs can be denied financial assistance and related support services. Not having basic resources like food and housing leads negative impacts on nutrition, housing, and health. These bans most harshly impact people of color and women and are especially hard on kids who, without ample support, are at higher risk of food insecurity, decreased academic achievement, and a host of negative health consequences.

This webinar brings together advocates, researchers, and directly impacted people to explore the ways in which the drug war has infiltrated the public benefits system and to generate solutions for reform. It is the second in a series of six webinars about DPA’s new initiative, Uprooting the Drug War.

Moderator:  Roberta "Toni" Meyers Douglas, Legal Action Center


  • Lauren Johnson, ACLU of Texas
  • Julilly Kohler-Hausmann, Cornell University
  • Alexis Pleus, TruthPharm
  • Rhonda Rogombé, West Virginia Center on Budget and Policy

Watch more of this discussion series.

Uprooting the Drug War