In today’s National Review, I write about new data collected in Maine that indicates there’s a thriving trade in welfare cash-benefit cards for drugs.

In Spring 2014, the state began tracking data on such electronic-benefit-transfer (EBT) cards found at drug busts. Among fewer than 200 drug-related warrants executed over the past year, investigators found 37 EBT cards in 22 cases.

“We’ve learned that this is a common practice, for a drug dealer to take custody of an EBT card as payment, or in lieu of immediate payment — that is, of course, as a cash benefit,” the head of the Maine Drug Enforcement Agency, Roy McKinney, told me.

Maine’s Sun Journal has a new report highlighting a different facet of this story:

County jail administrators said this week that they continue to confiscate Electronic Benefit Transfer cards from inmates during intake when the card is not in the name of the person who has it.

…According to Androscoggin County's jail administrator Capt. Jeffrey Chute, corrections officers are sending between three and four EBT cards back to the state Department of Health and Human Services each week.

From November 2013 to April 2014, of the roughly 1,700 bookings at the jail 143 individuals had EBT cards on them, according to a Sun Journal report. Of those, 36 were issued in someone else's name.

As we’ve reported before, Maine has taken a wide variety of steps to preserve the financial integrity of its welfare programs and to cut back on fraud. A pilot program, where welfare recipients can volunteer to have a photo ID put on their EBT card, appears to be successful in helping fraud; as Maine officials noted, not one of the cards found at drug-related crime scenes had a photo ID.

Nevertheless, the Obama administration is fighting hard against Maine’s EBT photo ID program. It has required extensive paperwork, also threatening to sue or withhold federal funding.