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Federal Farm Bill Has Drug Policy Implications

Submitted by Phillip Smith on (Issue #788)

The Agriculture Reform, Food, and Jobs Act of 2013 (Senate Bill 954), generally referred to as the Farm Bill, passed out of the Senate earlier this month and the House is now considering its version of the bill, House Bill 1947. There are at least three drug policy-related items in the bill -- hemp, drug testing for food stamps, and barring felons from obtaining food stamps -- and advocates are calling on supporters to act right now to encourage Congress to do the right thing.

[Update: The Hudson SNAP drug testing amendment has passed the House, and the Farm Bill of which it's a part is expected to pass. Efforts to block it now move to the conference committee.]

[Another update: The hemp amendment has passed!]

Industrial hemp advocates are urging supporters to contact their member of the House, where the House Rules Committee Tuesday night approved an amendment that would allow colleges and universities to grow and cultivate industrial hemp for academic and agricultural research purposes in states where hemp is already legal under state law.

The Senate failed to get around to voting on a similar amendment to its version of the farm bill, but if supporters can get it passed in the House bill, hemp research in states where it is legal could be approved in the conference committee that will reconcile the two bills.

The amendment could be voted on at any time, and the Marijuana Policy Project has put out the call to action. "Please call your representative today, and tell him or her to support this modest, sensible step forward on hemp. When you're done, please ask your friends to do the same," the group urged.

['s own action alert, on the hemp amendment and another one discussed below, is online here.]

While the Senate couldn't get around to voting on the hemp amendment, it did manage to approve an amendment by Sen. David Vitter (R-LA) that would require states to deny Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP, previously known as food stamps) benefits to anyone convicted of a number of specified crimes, including drug offenses. Vitter's amendment is retroactive, and unlike the existing ban on food stamps for drug felon, it provides no provision for states to opt, nor does it provide a chance to get a waiver by demonstrating rehabilitation.

Meanwhile, the House Rules Committee Tuesday approved a number of amendments to its version of the Farm Bill, including three punishing Vitter-style amendments to create a new lifetime ban for certain offenses, an amendment to eliminate states' ability to opt of the food stamp ban, and one to permit states to require drug testing for food stamp benefits.

Some of those amendments could come up for votes as early as this week, and sentencing and drug reform groups are mobilizing to try to stop them. In the event the amendments pass and become part of the House bill, the last chance to stop them will be in conference committee.

Permission to Reprint: This content is licensed under a modified Creative Commons Attribution license. Content of a purely educational nature in Drug War Chronicle appear courtesy of DRCNet Foundation, unless otherwise noted.


Bobby (not verified)

This is bull shit a retroactive bill even the bill it self to deny felons food stamps???? WTF is wrong with people today????????????????????????????????

Thu, 06/20/2013 - 4:43am Permalink
Rookie (not verified)

Isn't it time to move against Drug Testing..? Isn't it a huge invasion of Privacy? Isn't it a bodily Search? Isn't it making an individual Testify against Oneself? Why do we the People Continue to allow this?

Thu, 06/20/2013 - 8:11am Permalink
drmaddogs (not verified)

In reply to by Rookie (not verified)

The idea of Drug testing is not what it seems at first glance. Think of it sort of like immigration where 'legalization' will be first and any corrections like a border fence, or more Border Agents.... anything comes second. All Legislators get a boost because they did not stop legalization and the Bill was to include 'wishes', promises, not requirements or triggers.

The Legislators all get to say see? I voted for it.

Testing is something of the same. The Boarder Fence was law where 750 miles was to be built but only 35 were finished. Testing has been proven (In Florida) to where people on 'support' actually have less usage. The presumed reasoning, and I believe it is an accurate appraisal, is the Mj costs more than the 96-98% of the people on Wefare can afford. It would seem to be obvious.

Not so obvious was the cost, shown as greatly adding to the total cost (administration) if testing was included. In addition, the total cost for testing, vastly was more expensive than any savings on denial of qulifications for the social support program.


Back to your question. Testing is for why? Political prevarication and getting certain people tax dollars in an additional program to the primary program. Truer words cannot be said as the powers that be, had some ties to 'Testing' orgs.

So it is not about testing, nor abuse in the social programs, it's about Politicians and their friends......and money- Ain't it always?

Thu, 06/20/2013 - 5:57pm Permalink
Anon (not verified)

We really must rally against the drug testing bill.  This is outrageous. I agree that this is a search issue and should be unconstitutional, but it is also morally wrong to punish a family for the drug dependency of anyone of its members. Denying food assistance to someone due to drug (not alcohol?) dependence is just plain mean spirited. Congress is out of touch with the pulse of the nation.  they did not even hold hearings on the effectiveness of the SNAP program, and many of the members calling for cuts to so called entitlement program are themselves accepting various government subsidies.  it is all just sickening.

Thu, 06/20/2013 - 12:53pm Permalink
George (not verified)

Drug convictions have always been unfair along race lines.  Massively so for drug felonies. 

I think the plan is to get as many minorities to have felonies so they can not:

Own a gun for protection.  (since the courts are unfair, people should be screaming "2nd Amendment".)


Get food if you are starving.

Unfairly keeping guns out of the hands of 'Blacks' is the plan, if they can starve them too, WIN - WIN.

What a country :-(



Thu, 06/20/2013 - 1:03pm Permalink
George (not verified)

I guess is should be 'piling on' 

Thu, 06/20/2013 - 1:14pm Permalink
Matt B (not verified)

We were (key word, WERE) on food stamps while my wife was between jobs. She got laid off from circumstances out of control.

I live in a state where I legally use MJ for a couple different illnesses, including glaucoma (I've been legally blind 10+ years, and close to it the majority of my life).

To deny a man and his family food because he's fighting to keep what little eyesight he has left is obviously deeply disturbing to a man like myself.

I have a simple solution that is ***sorely*** underused in the drug reform movement.

ATTACK THEIR MORALITY. Please. Get nasty with them. They do NOT have the moral high ground anymore. Again, I say Please. This drug testing industry is out of control. The DuPonts need to be leashed.

We have a majority. It's time to ask that majority to grow a pair and act like freakin PROUD USA PATRIOTS.

What rights will America give up to eliminate 1-2% of cannabis usage and supply? All of them?!

Refuse, Resist.

Thu, 06/20/2013 - 1:32pm Permalink
Robert Sharpe (not verified)

Drug testing is a gift to drug war profiteers. It should be called lifestyle testing because the only drug it's useful for is marijuana. I work in social services in an affluent County inside the DC Metro area. Most food stamp recipients are in red states, but where I live the primary recipients are homeless persons with serious mental illness. You cannot be eligible for food stamps and still afford to pay rent here. So it's the homeless population that receives them, many of whom have had minor brushes with the law, e.g. vagrancy, drunk in public, urinating in public. Poverty isn't a crime, but it might as well be. That's another story. The point I want to make is that by denying food stamps to the down and out this bill will pass on the costs of safety net services to local governments. These people will either resort to local food banks or commit crimes in order to eat. The alternative is starvation. You can live on food stamps if you live under a bridge. Take away the food stamps and all you have left is the bridge. As Bob Marley once said, a hungry man is an angry man.  

Thu, 06/20/2013 - 7:29pm Permalink
Fireweed (not verified)

In reply to by Robert Sharpe (not verified)

If we allow whole segments of the population to just free fall with no safety net we become no better than North Korea.  There, government has no meaningful system of food distribution, and probably 50% of the population is undernourished.  Hunger can turn someone into a different person, and there have been stories of cannibalism from the famine in the 90's and even more recently.   do we want that here?  because that is what will eventually happen if we just cut people loose, or it might not be people but your pets. 

It's so interesting that these conservative elected officials (almost exclusively Republican) also align themselves with Christian organizations, even recently Republicans having convened at an evangelist Christian organization (whose name currently escapes me) where the Senator from South Carolina boldly stated that he thought the earthquakes of Haiti were a result of that country's population having generations ago "made a deal with the devil," (huh?) and thinly veiled racist statements about Obama being a thug.  

If they were truly Christian they'd be looking for ways to feed everybody and make everybody have access to health care, they wouldn't be rich (I guess they'll have to answer to that when their time comes and the camel has to pass thru the eye of the proverbial needle) and they wouldn't be criminalizing people who smoke pot (or for that matter use other drugs) (judge not lest ye be judged, right?)

These people profess to live by the Bible yet on so many levels violate it's principles.  Cannabis prohibition is but one way.  so yeah, I think we've got a lot of room to attack them on their own purported "moral" basis. 



Fri, 06/21/2013 - 9:26am Permalink
Matt B (not verified)

In reply to by Fireweed (not verified)

Democrats are terrible too, but Republicans have made such a mockery of Jesus' teachings. It's time for Christians to put Jesus at the forefront of their faith!!!!

If you support this political nightmare in America, out of fear, out of ignorance... who cares about the reason? You have been subjugated by the American political system.

If anyone thinks Christians must be blindly obedient to the State, you think incorrectly. The State has been taken over by the very revolutionaries Paul spoke of in the New Testament. These Revolutionaries include our very own Christian politicians, who support worldly methods and policies that are disgusting to God.

I am a sinner, I am no better than anyone else, but I have a God-given right to call out other Christians when they stray so far away from Jesus that they're willing to put faith in the monsters of our time. How Romney got 1 vote outside of the Mormon circle is beyond me. Oh yeah, I know why, FEAR. Obama got votes because he's not Romney.

"Obey the laws of the land" Says Romans 5:1. It is THEM who disobey the Constitution of the United States.

Fri, 06/21/2013 - 1:58pm Permalink
erica (not verified)

Seriously? Considering that the US tosses out 40% of their food, denying food to felons or "drug users" seems counter intuitive. Shameful. What kinds of people are actually running government? They seem to be hangry (hungry AND angry) and prefer to take up causes that have no benefit to the community at large. How do they sleep at night? Disgusting, hard to feel proud to be an American.

Fri, 06/21/2013 - 1:31pm Permalink
asshole (not verified)

So we deny felons food stamps, let in the illegals, Felons cant get good jobs, and the illegals take the ones they could get. SO what do you have then. MORE CRIME. PRISON INDUSTRIAL COMPLEX......

Pure Evil......

Tue, 06/25/2013 - 9:16am Permalink

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