Under Oregon state law, some food stamp recipients are permitted to deduct their medical marijuana costs from their income in calculating their eligibility for the federal program.
The provision allows seniors and those who qualify for Social Security Disability Insurance to deduct medical costs such as prescription drugs when submitting income information to determine if they qualify for food stamps. Medical marijuana, still illegal at the federal level, has been grouped in this larger category since the state legalized it back in 1998.
"Medical marijuana gets treated just like any other prescription drug," Gene Evans, spokesman for the Oregon Department of Human Services, told the Oregonian.
Included in these available deductions are fees for obtaining a state-issued medical marijuana card, expenses incurred while cultivating marijuana and the costs of purchasing it from a third-party grower.
In Oregon, some benefits also appear to go both ways. According to an Oregon Department of Public Health pamphlet on medical marijuana, applicants for growsites can receive a reduced fee if they provide documentation that they are currently enrolled in the food stamp program. Reduced rates for medical marijuana registry cards are available for food stamp recipients in other states as well.
According to the Oregonian, Maine and New Mexico both have similar language regarding the deduction of medical marijuana expenses, but an inquiry by the newspaper found the federal government unreceptive to the state practice.
"No state may deduct the cost of any substance considered illegal under federal law, including medical marijuana," the U.S. Department of Agriculture wrote in response to the Oregonian. "Although there may be state or local laws that permit the cultivation, prescription, and sale of marijuana for medicinal purposes, such activity is not permitted under federal law."
Evans said most food stamp recipients are unaware of the rules regarding medical marijuana deductions, and though there is some overlap between the two pools, the practice is used only infrequently.
According to the Oregonian, however, their report made enough of a stir to prompt state officials to plan discussions with federal food stamp administrators concerning the law.