Drug felons would be eligible for food stamps for the first time in decades under a House-approved measure by New Orleans Representative Helena Moreno. In the 1990s offenders with drug related charges were barred from the assistance program, while all other felons remained eligible.

Moreno says all but six states have lifted these restrictions because they don’t make sense anymore.

“There’s been numerous studies that have shown that the better ability that someone has to feed themselves and have a roof over their head when they come out, they better chance they have for success,” Moreno said.

Winnsboro Representative Steve Pylant says drug offenders have the highest recidivism rate of any criminals. That’s why the former sheriff proposed an amendment to require them to submit to routine drug tests in order to receive food stamps. He says we need safeguards to ensure the money is being spent as it should be.

“Drug offenders will take these benefits and use them to swap and trade and do whatever they can to keep their habit going if they are prone to do so, which most of em are,” Pylant said.

Monroe Representative Katrina Jackson says there’s no study to show that drug felons will use their benefits to buy drugs. She says these offenders should not be treated differently than others because it could hurt their chances of transitioning back into the community.

“Usually we have so many restrictions on drug felons that they can’t get back on their feet, and so they end up committing crimes against our constituents because we restrict them so much,” Jackson said.

The amended measure passed in the House on a 77-17 vote.