JEFFERSON CITY — Missouri patients with medical marijuana cards won't be at risk of losing welfare if they test positive for pot under a revamped state policy.
The change comes after Missouri voters in 2018 said patients with cancer, epilepsy, post-traumatic stress disorder and other illnesses may use cannabis with doctor approval.
But legalizing medical marijuana put those patients at odds with another Missouri law that requires Temporary Assistance for Needy Families applicants to be screened for drug use. Under that law, participants risk losing welfare benefits for three years if they are asked to take a drug test and either fail or don't show up.
Department of Social Services spokeswoman Rebecca Woelfel said in an email that the agency now exempts recipients with medical marijuana cards.
Missouri Medical Cannabis Trade Association spokesman Jack Cardetti in a statement applauded the agency "for a humane and sensible decision that protects these patients and doesn't needlessly intrude upon the doctor-patient relationship."
Roughly 9,400 families and 22,000 individuals received cash assistance in Missouri in August, according to Social Services data.
Woelfel told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch that the agency's new welfare policy still will require some applicants to take drug tests. Woelfel said participants can refuse to take a drug test, but they would then be required to enter a substance misuse treatment program.
"If an individual fails a drug test, testing positive for marijuana only, and does not have a medical marijuana card, they can receive TANF benefits only if they get substance abuse treatment approved by the MO Department of Mental Health," Woelfel said.