Sessions Sounds Alarm Over HHS Policy Allowing Welfare Cash To Be Withdrawn In Marijuana Stores

WASHINGTON—U.S. Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-AL), Ranking Member of the Senate Budget Committee, issued the following statement today regarding a response he recently received from the Department of Health and Human Services to his oversight letter on welfare payments being withdrawn at marijuana dispensaries:

“The federal government current spends roughly $750 billion each year on means-tested welfare programs across 80 different accounts. This money is administered by a vast, sprawling bureaucracy with little oversight and no moral vision. Surely we can all agree that the guiding principle ought to be that benefits are reserved for those in real need.

In recognition of this common-sense objective, Congress has already passed a law which states that Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) cash benefits may not be withdrawn from certain places like liquor stores. But I was surprised to learn that HHS says it ‘has no authority to prescribe policies and practices… to prohibit the use of TANF benefit cards at marijuana stores.’

I intend to introduce legislation to address this problem. Once the loophole is closed, I will also be following up with HHS to make sure they are taking the steps necessary to stop this dangerous misuse of taxpayer-funded benefits.”


  • To view Sessions’ initial oversight letter, please click here.
  • On December 23, 2011, both the House and the Senate included in a payroll tax bill a provision that granted HHS the authority to prohibit welfare beneficiaries from withdrawing their cash benefits at vice institutions, such as liquor stores, strip clubs, and casinos. Although HHS has exercised near-plenary discretion to interpret Obamacare in its preferred light, the Department now claims that it cannot interpret the payroll law’s TANF provisions to include marijuana stores, a similarly illicit enterprise.