PORTLAND, Ore., July 13 (UPI) -- Three states said they won't allow medical marijuana deductions for food stamp applicants after the U.S. Agriculture Department threatened to levy penalties.
A memo from the department ordering food-stamp program regional directors to stop the deductions was sent after The (Portland) Oregonian contacted the federal agency about it last week. A survey of 17 states that permit marijuana for medicinal purposes found Oregon, New Mexico and Maine allowed some applicants to deduct the marijuana's cost when applying for the benefit.
Medical marijuana advocates questioned the reasoning for the change, The Oregonian reported Thursday.
"It's a sad day when we have to see this kind of retreat based on what appears to be federal pressure and federal intimidation," said Kris Hermes, a spokesman for Americans for Safe Access, a medical marijuana advocacy group. "It makes one wonder when the federal government is going to come around and realize this is indeed a public health issue and address the problem accordingly."
When determining whether a family qualifies for food stamps in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, Oregon allows applicants to deduct medical expenses, including the cost of medical marijuana, from their incomes. Only the elderly or permanently disabled who qualify for Social Security Disability Insurance could claim the medical marijuana deductions in Oregon.
State officials told The Oregonian the Agriculture Department memo said federal law doesn't recognize any accepted medical use for marijuana and that non-compliant states could be penalized.
"While we recognize that Oregon voters have declared marijuana to be medicine, this new guidance from the federal government sets clear direction on allowable medical expenses under federal law," Oregon Department of Human Services Director Erinn Kelley-Siel said in an e-mail to The Oregonian,
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