Ramona Choyce, 26, of Oakland, Ca., served time for drug possession. She has changed her lifestyle, but still suffers the consequences of her addiction, reports the Sacramento Bee. If she had been convicted of murder, rape, or robbery, she would be eligible for food stamps. Until now, drug offenders in California have been banned for life from receiving the federal benefit that helps the needy pay for groceries.
On Saturday, a new state law lifts the ban on food stamps for people who have been convicted of possessing drugs, as long as they have enrolled in treatment and their offense was not violent. Convicted drug dealers or manufacturers still will not be eligible. Advocates for substance abusers have argued for years that many people convicted on drug charges are suffering from addiction, and that the law unfairly punishes people just when they need all the nourishment and support they can get. In changing its law, California joins 31 other states that have decided some drug offenders need another chance. About 1,600 Californians are affected by the ban. Though the number of people involved is small, activists say the symbolism is large. Advocates have been trying to change the law since 1999. But former Democratic Gov. Gray Davis, citing a need to be tough on offenders, vetoed previous attempts.