Get out of prison for murder, child molestation or just about any other felony in Missouri and you can still get food stamps. If you have a felony drug conviction, forget it. You're banned for life, says the Kansas City Star. To Johnny Waller, who had a drug conviction, that doesn't seem fair. The 34-year-old Kansas City resident traveled this week, as he has for years, to the state Capitol to speak out for legislation lifting the lifetime ban. Missouri is one of only nine states where a felony drug conviction means a lifetime ban from ever qualifying for food stamps. Congress allows states to opt out of the ban, which was imposed in 1996 as part of welfare reform legislation. To date, 41 states and the District of Columbia have lifted or modified the ban.
Waller believes he's the poster child for why Missouri should change its ways, because he has. He was 18 when he was convicted of possession of narcotics with the intent to sell, which landed him in prison for more than two years. In the 13 years since completing his sentence, Waller said he's stayed on the straight and narrow. He started a business and went back to school. Still, Rep. Rick Brattin doesn't want people selling food stamp cards on the black market for drug money, or trading them for drugs. “I just don't want to see the food stamp program used to subsidize a drug habit,” he said. “I'm not against helping anyone, but to say a murderer can get food stamps, well, a murderer can't subsidize his crime with food stamps.”