Using Welfare Benefits to Pay For Marijuana and Psychics?

by Khaleef Crumbley on December 3, 2010

in Personal Finance

Post image for Using Welfare Benefits to Pay For Marijuana and Psychics?

photo by Mills Baker

There was an article in the LA Times the other day explaining that welfare recipients in California will have tighter restrictions in where they can use their benefits debit card:

California welfare recipients will no longer be able to use their state-issued debit cards at medical marijuana shops, psychics, massage parlors and many other businesses whose services have been deemed “inconsistent” with the goals of the program.

I really can’t believe that some people had the boldness to use these cards at these places! People were actually taking money from hardworking taxpayers and going to buy marijuana and psychic readings?

Governor Schwarzenegger sent out a letter notifying county welfare directors of the removal of these business from the network that allowed their ATMs and point-of-sale (POS) card readers to accept the state’s Electronic Benefits Transfer cards:

The letter said the cards, which allow access to cash meant to help families pay rent and clothe their children, also will no longer work at bail bond establishments, bingo halls, gun shops, bars, race tracks, smoking shops, tattoo parlors and on cruise ships.

Okay, so not only are they visiting Miss Cleo (“KAWL MEH NAH”) with public dollars, but they are also getting drunk, buying guns, aiding criminals,  and getting tattoos, all while taking cruises! And that’s not all:

In June, Schwarzenegger eliminated casinos and poker rooms from the network after The Times reported that more than half of the licensed gambling establishments in California had ATMs that accepted the cards.

Last month, Schwarzenegger ordered casinos outside of California removed from the network after The Times reported more than $69 million in welfare benefits had been accessed from machines outside of the state since 2007, including nearly $12 million in Las Vegas.

So, almost $12 million of California State welfare benefits were withdrawn in Las Vegas?!?!?! Remember, these are the same people who are crying because they can’t feed their family, and complaining because the government isn’t doing more to help them!

They are gambling with money that the public is giving to them to pay their rent and afford the necessities of life!

I remember growing up and seeing so many people on welfare in my community. Some of them were trying as hard as possible to get an education, and make the best of their life. They made smart decisions, and tried to help others even in the middle of their own hardships!

However, I also remember the drunkards and drug addicts who would trade their food stamps for fifty cents on the dollar so they could buy alcohol and drugs! They would steal and sell anything that they could – even selling their claim to their own children during tax season.  They would have no food to feed their children, but dress in the best clothing! The city/state would set them up with affordable housing where they paid $12/month in rent – and they still would be 6 months behind!!!

For many, these people grew to represent welfare recipients as a whole!

I bring this up to remind myself (and whoever is reading this) that everyone is different and these people in California who are getting drunk with their welfare money don’t represent everyone who needs a temporary hand.

However, they are the reason why those who actually need welfare are seen in such a negative light.

I guess the real lesson would be that we all have to be faithful stewards with whatever money we have – no matter what the perceived source!

Reader Questions:

  1. Do you think the Governor did the right thing?
  2. Does this change your view of those on welfare?
  3. Do you think there should be more strict limitations on these benefits?
  4. Do you think our government can/should do more to help these people?


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{ 12 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Elizabeth B@Online Psychic Reading

As a reader for over 12 years I have seen it all, but yes this is a first. But honestly my clients are truly facing quite a few problems in there life that would lead me to understand why someone would use there benefits to call a reader.

Some of my clients have Cancer, Hiv, some of my clients are facing divorces being a single parent, the point I am trying to make is life is hard, when someone reaches rock bottom and feeling suicidal, without any friends or family to confide in I get …..calling a reader with a ebt card if that is your only means to call them. Also some clients only call for one minute over the phone, which is $0.99 cents to ask a very important life altering question.

But at the end of the day if I made a difference in someones life and prevented them from taking there own life, then I am happy.


2 Rachel@ merchant processing

I agree that that the people in California who are abusing the system definitely do not represent the country as a whole. I do, however, feel that it is a good idea to keep better tabs on what the issued money is being used on.


3 Everyday Tips

Oh my gosh, this outrages me. Not that he stopped it, but that it was ever allowed in the first place. I wonder if they can buy lottery tickets with food stamps too??? (that was a rhetorical question) That would be no different than having an ATM in the casino that accepted the card.


4 Khaleef Crumbley

I can’t believe it either! I remember when people would sell their food stamps for $.50 on the dollar so they could buy things that weren’t allowed on the program! That was back when food stamps were actually printed in denominations!


5 Tim @ Faith and Finance

1. Do you think the Governor did the right thing?
Yes, it definitely needed to be done. I can’t believe it was happening in the first place!

2. Does this change your view of those on welfare?
No. You’ll always have crooks whether they’re carrying a welfare card or wearing a tie. I don’t think down on those who use welfare (my family used it for a time growing up).

3. Do you think there should be more strict limitations on these benefits?
Yes, I think there needs to be a time limit on certain welfare benefits. If you can depend on welfare for your entire life…why would you attempt to make more money? It needs to be structured better.

4. Do you think our government can/should do more to help these people?
I think the programs are generous enough and frankly, I feel they need to be reduced. I think its the responsibility of the people and religious groups to be charitable – not the government


6 Khaleef Crumbley

I agree with you on every point. Charitable giving needs to be done through local churches (and other religious institutions) and individuals. Forced giving – through taxes – never works!


7 Carol@inthetrenches

Khaleef, thanks for posting this article and raising awareness about the potential and real abuse of taxpayer dollars.

I contemplate those in need daily and hope that those on public assistance will benefit from In The Trenches – Financial Survival During Times of Hardship. Personally, I have come to the opinion that all cash assistance programs (excluding SSA and Disability) should be limited to six months with required education in budgeting, meal planning and preparation, job search skills, alcohol rehab, etc. Medical benefits may need to extend beyond that.

Six months allows enough time to make lifestyle adjustments including finding a job, enlisting the help of family or private sources, relocating, or other lifestyle changes which may include changes in standard of living. All assistance programs should have the goal of enabling a person to become more self-reliant, not dependent. The longer the benefits are received the more dependent a person may become and this should not be the responsibility of other taxpayers.

Thanks again for your good work. May God bless.


8 Khaleef Crumbley

I definitely think that a time limit and mandatory training/counseling is needed in these cases.


9 First Gen American

It makes me wonder how many other places were tried that didn’t work.

My corporate credit card has tighter controls than this. Unbelievable.


10 Khaleef Crumbley

Yeah, I can’t believe they were allowed to use their card in these ways for so long. I’m glad they finally put a stop to it!


11 Wiseguy

1. Do you think the Governor did the right thing?
It’s sad that it needed be done, but yes.

2. Does this change your view of those on welfare?
No. Some people make bad decisions and will misuse their money, others don’t. That’s the nature of some people, regardless of wealth or social status.

3. Do you think there should be more strict limitations on these benefits?
If there are other frivolous uses that should be restricted, sure. But if it gets to the point where you are potentially preventing people from fulfilling legitimate needs, no.

4. Do you think our government can/should do more to help these people?
No. But individuals should.


12 Khaleef Crumbley

Hey Wiseguy, thanks for the comment! I agree with you on each point. Especially the last one. If we did more to help each other, these government programs could be scaled down significantly!


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