Editorial

Drug, food stamp law strikes reasonable balance

Wednesday, March 23, 2016

Giving food stamps to drug dealers only enables them to keep on breaking the law.

Keeping food stamps from people convicted of drug felonies is only kicking them when they're down, and putting more pressure on local food pantries.

For now, the Nebraska Legislature is taking the first position.

Thanks to a filibuster to conservative opponents, Nebraska residents with major or multiple felony drug convictions will remain ineligible for federal food assistance.

A 1996 federal law prohibits drug felons from receiving food assistance, but states can opt out.

Sen. Adam Morfeld of Lincoln says he may try to introduce the repeal again next year. He says the law makes no sense because it applies to drug crimes but not more serious offenses such as sexual assault and murder.

The state denied benefits to 676 applicants last year because of felony drug convictions, and that was only those who chose to apply.

They could still turn to local food pantries, like McCook's, but rural areas, especially, have limited services.

SNAP outreach manager Sarah Comer of the Food Bank of Lincoln said many former inmates want to turn their lives around, but get discouraged when they learn they're not eligible. "They feel like they're getting kicked when they're already down," she said. "They're trying to be part of the community again."

But opponents of the repeal point out that offenders with one or two felony convictions can still qualify for food assistance if they are participating in an accredited or state licenses substance abuse treatment program.

It's wrong to give food to active drug dealers, said Sen. Bill Kintner of Papillion. "If you're dealing drugs and I'm paying for your food, we're subsidizing your operation."

The bill won initial approval earlier this month, but Gov. Pete Ricketts and conservative lawmakers oppose it. A vote of 28-15 fell five short of the 33 needed to bring it to a vote, effectively killing it for the year.

The current law seems to strike a reasonable balance between enabling drug dealers and punishing those who have already paid for their crimes.

But what do you think?

Should drug felons be denied food stamps?
 Yes
 No

Your comments about the poll question: (Optional)

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  • Should repeat alcohol offenders be denied food stamps?

    Probably not, that might cut down on the Beer Garden sales at our local fairs and other events - God Forbid that should happen!!!

    -- Posted by Geezer on Thu, Mar 24, 2016, at 12:35 PM
  • First of all its a felony to possess methamphetamine..so how can u classify all felony drug offenders as drug dealers? And secondly ur not looking at the big picture which is most drug offenders have family's, kids that are depending on them, so when you take away food assistance from the offender, your not takin it away from the offender your taking it away from their children whom have NOTHING to do with what their parent(s) did. They are innocent in all this. And in all actuality taking food away from a person isnt right to begin with but its only adding on to the vicious cycle. You take an offender put them back into the community and expect them to be model citizens buy you cut off all their resources? Most felons whether it be drug related or not can't even get hired anywhere because they have a felony. That makes it hard to provide for a family if nobody will hire you because you have a felony.. And then you cut off resources like food and u expect them to become productive members of society? With what? How? In turn they go back to making money the only way they know how so they can feed their kids because you want them to be self sufficient but you won't give them a leg to stand on to even attempt to become what you want them to be. So they try, you shut them down end result nothing...problem just continues and continues to get worse! Sounds like a good idea to me. Create more obsticals for those who already have enough obsticals and are trying to get their life back in order so they can be self sufficient and take care of them selves. Yes,there are some who abuse the program and I don't agree whith that at all either..but to classify anybody w a felony drug charge as drug dealers and single them out of the entire population and criminal population is wrong! If your going to take it away from them you need to take it away from all felons..no matter what the charge,then you may as well do away with the whole program since probably at least half the population are convicted felons. Tampering with evidence is a felony, theft over a certain amount is a felony, possession of methaphetamine alone is a felony, why aren't drunk drivers punished as harshly? They actually kill more people because they drove while under the influence of alcohol. Alcohol is as bad as drugs if not worse and its also just as addictting but drunk drivers don't get treated the same way as drug offenders do, Why? In school they teach us that alcohol is a drug, y is it not classified as a drug? Y isn't alcohol punishment as sever as possession of drugs? Same rules/punishment should apply to all felony convictions instead of singling out certain types of felons. Its like having more than one child same rules apply to both children if one can't have a cookie till their room is clean, neither of them can have a cookie till their rooms are clean! If u take away food assistance from one felon, you need to take it away from all felons. But honestly taking food away from anybody felon or not felon, child or adult in my personal opinion is wrong and heartless. NOBODY should go hungry!

    -- Posted by Me2003 on Thu, Mar 31, 2016, at 9:38 AM
  • Me2003, why should MY taxes go to helping a drug offender? I should only have to work for my own family. I don't support drug use so I'm not supporting ANY drug offender to get assistance. If they've got money to spend on drugs, they need to learn to spend that money on their families!

    -- Posted by Rural Citizen on Thu, Mar 31, 2016, at 1:05 PM
  • Rural,

    I don't believe they want to change it for those currently doing/dealing drugs but rather those that have done their time and are clean while trying to make a new life for themselves.

    -- Posted by npwinder on Thu, Mar 31, 2016, at 11:29 PM
  • If they can continually prove they're clean, that's ok. But I'd like to see manditory testing prior to receiving benefits.

    -- Posted by Rural Citizen on Fri, Apr 1, 2016, at 10:20 AM
  • Mandatory testing first is a good idea. It would be bad if while trying to find a good job the people that served their time did not make enough money to buy food and then returned to selling drugs to make ends meet. Me2003 has some good points also.

    -- Posted by dennis on Fri, Apr 1, 2016, at 1:02 PM
  • Drug addiction is a disease.

    This will not affect drug dealers. It will only punish users. We have enough punitive measures against users already, so many its clogging up our court system and filling our jails.

    Can a drug dealer afford to lose food stamps, of course. Can an addict afford it? Of course not.

    If the desire is to force addicts to commit crimes mission accomplished.

    -- Posted by Diatheke on Mon, Apr 4, 2016, at 2:42 PM
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