Drugs & Welfare

I used to be broadly in favor of drug legalization, but I never thought about it too much, so my opinion has always been conditional. Smart people seemed to think legalizing drugs made sense so I went along with it, but smart people often have nutty ideas about the world. My view of government says we should have a very small state controlled by the nation’s wealthy, leaving most things up to citizens to work out for themselves.

At the same time, I knew that legalization was not a panacea. Life is nothing but trade-offs. Fewer drug laws may mean fewer cops chasing drug dealers, but it also means more drug addicts. That has a cost too. That’s an easy one to tease out right from the start, but there are always unexpected or hidden trade-offs. We’re just not very good at thinking through all of the possibilities. It’s why chess is not our national past time.

According to this story, one such unexpected trade-off is the use of EBT cards for buying weed.

The “Preserving Welfare for Needs Not Weed Act,” is expected to be introduced on Monday by Colorado Republican Reps. Dave Reichert, Scott Tipton and Cory Gardner, KDVR.com reported.

The bill would add pot dispensaries to the current list of locations where states must block welfare electronic benefits transfer (EBT) cards from being used for purchases or ATM withdrawals, Reichert’s office told the station.

KDVR.com reported last week that at least 19 different dispensaries allowed electronic benefits transfer withdrawals inside their pot shops in January. Public records obtained by the station showed 56 transactions, totaling nearly $4,000.

One of the only things John Edwards said worth remembering is the line about there being two Americas. There’s actually more than two. If you are black, you live in an America very different from that of white people. If you are a member of the ruling class, you live a life nothing like the rest of us. If you are in the underclass, you live a different life than most people. We spend a lot of time talking about blacks, the rich and the middle-class, but  not much about the under-class.

Anyway, this law will do nothing to curtail the use of EBT cards for buying weed. The underclass figured out long ago how to turn welfare benefits into cash. EBT cards are traded like any other commodity. Of course, the easiest trick is to use the card to buy a bunch of easily salable food, like canned goods or soda. Then you sell those to a small restaurant or market at a discount. Magically, the card was converted into cash. It is what funds the Oxycontin Express.

People in the under-class are stupid, but they are clever. They know how to work a scam if there is a quick buck in it. Not all are without morality, but one reason the poor are poor is they lack social competence. Getting over on the government is not a moral question for them. It is a matter of impulse control. They can so they do. These are not people contemplating the vagaries of the universe. They want what they want and will do what they must to get what they want. The poor have always been transactional.

Of course, the under-class is at it full-time while the agents of the state administering these programs are part-timers. Just as prisoners know a lot more about the prison than the guards, the poor know more about the ghetto than the social workers and case officers from the state. The politicians know nothing about the poor, which why we got a welfare state in the first place. That means whatever rules the state creates to control the activity within the under-class is going to fail.

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6 years ago

Re: “My view of government says we should have a very small state controlled by the nation’s wealthy….”

Seriously? Ugh, -1