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Drug convictions can make you ineligible for food stamps

Those convicted of a crime, including felony drug charges, can face many obstacles once their sentence has been served. Most people understand that convicted felons have difficulty obtaining employment. In many states, including Florida, those convicted of felony drug crimes may also be unable to obtain food stamps and other cash assistance.

A federal ban was put into place in 1996 as part of the nation's "war on drugs" and welfare reform efforts. Since then, many states have exercised the option to relax or remove those rules, but Florida is among the seven states that still have the full restriction.

The United States currently has about a half million people incarcerated with felony drug convictions. Most of these are not high-level dealers and have no previous criminal records. By banning them from assistance when they reenter society, they may be put at an extreme disadvantage.

Opponents of this ban state that these restrictions make it much more difficult for convicted drug offenders to make ends meet once they are released from prison. Without other options, these individuals may return to felonious drug activities to survive.

Those who oppose the ban also claim that the restriction doesn't match the crime, as no such ban is in place for any other type of crime, including violent offenses:

"You had individuals who were coming out of the system convicted of a violent crime who had the eligibility to apply for food stamps whereas someone who went in on a drug charge, including possession, didn't have that ability," said Georgia state representative Rich Golick in a PBS Newshour report. "You're increasing the chances that they may reoffend because they don't have the ability to make ends meet. Doesn't this go against what we're trying to achieve as they re-enter society?"

Many states have revised restrictions to require drug testing or treatment before drug felons can be eligible for welfare, food stamps and other cash assistance. Florida has yet to make any modifications to its policies, and time will tell whether any future changes occur on a state or federal level.

There are many different types of adverse consequences for those convicted of crimes. These other consequences can range from losing one's job to being deported out of the country. A person charged with a crime should consult with an experienced criminal defense attorney as to the consequences of being convicted of a crime.