"Groundless lifetime ban" prevents grocer with a drug-dealing conviction from serving neighbors who rely on food stamps

After serving 14 years in prison for dealing drugs, Altimont Mark Wilks turned his life around and opened two Carmen's Corner Stores, providing a much-needed resource in his community. However, a USDA regulation prevents Altimont from serving his community fully. The department has a lifetime ban preventing food retailers with criminal records related to alcohol, drugs, or firearms from accepting SNAP benefits, regardless of when the crime occurred.

Altimont applied to accept SNAP benefits at his stores but was denied due to his past. This prohibition hampers his competition and service to around 20% of households near his stores that depend on SNAP benefits. This ban punishes crimes that may not necessarily indicate a risk of SNAP fraud.

In response, Altimont partnered with the Institute for Justice to challenge this ruling. They argue that the USDA's lifetime ban lacks rational justification and unfairly prevents access to affordable groceries. Their fight seeks to affirm that old criminal convictions should not hinder entrepreneurs from making a fresh start and serving their communities.

From The Institute for Justice:

The government cannot exclude businesses from its programs for irrational reasons. Permanently banning Altimont from being a SNAP retailer doesn't make sense—it just deprives people in his community of access to affordable groceries, which defeats the entire purpose of SNAP. That's why Altimont and IJ are asking the court to rule that the USDA's permanent ban is invalid. A victory will vindicate the simple truth that old and irrelevant criminal convictions should not prevent anyone from getting a fresh start.