AUGUSTA — Federal officials ordered Maine to stop allowing some food stamp recipients to deduct medical marijuana expenses from their income for determining benefits, and to recover “overpayments” to those recipients.
“They told us it is not an allowable deduction and we have stopped allowing it,” said Dale Denno, director of the Office of Family Independence. The agency oversees the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, which is more commonly known as food stamps.
The deduction was limited to elderly and permanently disabled Mainers; others eligible for SNAP benefits did not get the deduction, he said. He said his agency does not know how many individuals are affected by the change, but he believes it is a small number.
Maine — along with New Mexico and Oregon — allowed the deduction because the states have laws allowing the use of marijuana for medical purposes. Denno said Maine allowed the deduction because Maine law requires a doctor’s approval for the use of medical marijuana.
“Since the regulation talked about both prescription drugs and other medications approved by a licensed practitioner, it appeared to be encompassed in that broader definition,” he said. “They now clarify that a household may not use the SNAP medical deduction for the use of medical marijuana.”
States that were told to immediately stop allowing the deduction. “States that are not in compliance may face penalties,” wrote Lisbeth Silbermann of the USDA’s Food and Nutrition Service.
Denno said the SNAP program is funded by the federal government, and “they make all the rules.” He said the