Welfare cash for Colo. strip clubs, liquor stores, pot shops

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DENVER -- Marijuana dispensaries, strip clubs, and liquor stores – you name the vice – Colorado welfare recipients are using tax money to enjoy them.

Fox31 Denver’s investigative team first revealed how welfare debit cards were used at ATMs inside at least 19 separate pot shops just in the month of January.

Now we learn some Colorado lawmakers are worried the state risks losing hundreds of millions of dollars in federal low-income, community funding if they don’t figure out how to stop welfare abuses.

It's against both federal and state law to use a Quest welfare debit card and pull cash out of an ATM at a liquor store, but Fox31 Denver found more than a hundred such transactions last month alone.

Records show a few welfare recipients also used ATMs inside strip clubs, pulling money from a tax funded account aimed at helping needy families.

The same scenario occurred at nearly two-dozen marijuana dispensaries. The proof is in the cash receipts we acquired under the Colorado Open Records Act.

Marijuana dispensary owner Tim Cullen, who didn't install a private ATM inside his store like many other pot retailers, says his colleagues better watch out.

“I guess I'm not shocked that you found that, but I'm a little bit disappointed,” Cullen told Fox31 Denver after seeing our initial ATM welfare cash for pot story.

“We'd like to avoid the federal government shutting down this amazing experiment that's been really successful in Colorado - based on the actions of a few individuals.”

According to some lawmakers, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services has already warned Colorado; it needs to take welfare abuse prevention seriously or risk losing enormous amounts of low income program grant money.

State Senator Vicki Marble says Democrats killed her bill last month that would have made strip clubs and pot dispensary ATMs off limits for welfare recipients.

“This bill will come back next year and with the work you're doing - I can't thank you enough because it's work like that that proves it's a necessary bill to pass.”

We asked Democratic leadership for comment, but were not granted an interview.

State House minority leader, Representative Brian Del Grosso, R-Loveland, says it’s been a frustrating process to not be able to create what he sees as common sense rules to deter welfare abuse.

"Under current law you cannot use those inside a casino or liquor stores or bars so we try to say, 'You know what - this marijuana industry is new and why should we not line that up with what we have in current law.'"

Fox31 Denver discovered another problem that might need addressing before any agency can properly monitor where welfare debit cards are being used.

Colorado does not regulate private ATM machines -- the kind we found in nearly every marijuana retailer and liquor store we visited.

That's a serious concern for the feds who want to monitor any signs of money laundering.



  • Daniel Dailey

    Again, this will not stop the money from being used for inappropriate spending. If people can still withdraw cash at all… From anywhere at all… regardless of where the ATM is located, they can abuse the system.

  • Joshua Stone

    I think one of two things should happen. 1. If the card was used at one of these places then the card should be locked and the card owner would need to contact customer service. 2. If this is such a concern then the government should make it mandatory to make the machines deny the withdraw money when it recognizes a government issued card such as ssi or qwest cards

  • Codswallop Hogwash

    Go back to food stamps.
    This exploitation of our money has got to stop.
    Watch your local and national governments, mostly controlled by Democrats, for action, or lack of it, on this, and vote accordingly.
    Get rid of the wastrels.

  • Jeff Bender

    Its amazing how little the government cares about how to manage the money our tax dollars are spent. When are we going to vote someone in that doesn’t have their hands in the cookie jar AND how to properly maintain the money going out. It is time for a change and we need to stop giving money to frauds, thieves and liars. This can be regulated so easily its amazing we still let it happen.And for all you welfare frauds, time to be cut off!

  • Robert Winn

    There is absolutely no reason any of these cards should be used to get cash. They should only be used as credit/debit cards.

    Welfare should be embarassing and a painful situation. People should want to get off the system ASAP. I agree with the above, beans government cheese, rice, is all they need. That should motivate them to get off the system.

  • Jessica Reece (@Just_JessiLee)

    They’ll just go to Kings or Safeway and pull out the money. I work at the Service Counter and I see it all the time. They get the money out, then buy lotto and cigarettes and beer. Unless you remove the option for cash all together people will always abuse these cards.

  • Greg McCarter

    Just stop government handouts. Make them get jobs, taking them away from illegals, and begin deportation. My grandparents never got a handout, they worked.

    STOP all welfare, make unemployment recipients do community service before getting a check, my streets have garbage that needs to be picked up.

  • Victor Henry

    I believe the right to “make it rain” is protected under the constitution. I mean seriously, you can’t expect a man to live without strippers. It’s just not right. And booze-what can I say. The issue speaks for itself.

  • David Dedrickson

    of course democrats won’t pass a bill to make pulling cash out illegal – doing so would take their votes away and they certainly wouldn’t want that now would they? flippin losers!!!!!

  • Niccolle (@Royalmajesty908)

    I work for the Federal Government. I don’t live pay check to pay check. Some of us have jobs.. But I still qualify for the benefits. Why you mad? But I’m not an idiot like some people. They should know better and use their money wisely.

  • Dan Defoe

    Can you imagine what the soup kitchen lines would look like with 45 millions people? That’s what we had in the 1930s. Now we have EBT cards so the soup kitchen lines are distributed so people don’t notice.

Comments are closed.

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