Drug Testing Welfare Recipients?


My thoughts on drug testing Welfare recipients: Yes they should be tested.

This subject tends to try a decent about of attention.  I thought about this and laid out, what I perceive to be an intelligent argument.
So, let’s start with the basic facts:
  • Drug usage in the US is generally illegal.  Only marijuana is currently legal in minimal areas.
  • Marijuana has been studied and is not considered to be an highly addictive substance.  In fact research has shown the overall addiction potential for cannabis to be less than for caffeine, tobacco, alcohol, cocaine or heroin.
  • TANF/SNAP benefits (aka Welfare) is an essential and valuable safety net designed to help those in our society who needs help to those who need it most.
  • Without a doubt, all social programs have people who attempt or succeed in taking advantage of the program.

So, here’s the basics of my argument:

Why should someone be drug tested for public aid aka Welfare?

I’m not interested in hurting/depriving anyone of food or the necessary help.  Let me re-iterate that point.  Welfare is a safety net for those to who are in poverty (can’t pay for life’s necessities such as food and shelter) or who without assistance are in danger of becoming in poverty.  So, if that person needs help to survive, then why is the money intended to help them survive being used on recreational drug use?   I know for myself, the temptation to go to Happy Hour over pay a bill can be tempting, however it needs to be just that.  Our role as a civilized society is to help those who desperately need it, not to fund their recreational drug use.

Many employers today require a job applicant to pass a drug test in order to be employed with their company.  It’s an over simplistic argument, but if I have to be drug tested for my job which in part contributes to the welfare funds the government uses, then why shouldn’t someone be tested in order to receive them?

If you need taxpayer money for survival then spending money on illegal drugs shouldn't be an option.

If you need taxpayer money for survival then spending money on recreational, illegal drugs shouldn’t be an option.

Although many people, including myself, believe that a “controlled” legalization of marijuana is acceptable, it is still illegal in the majority of the USA.  If it becomes legal, then adjust the law accordingly.  But, currently since illegal drug usage is ILLEGAL, then I can’t understand why, if we have reason to suspect the person of illegal drug use, the person should not be tested.  For an example, in the state of Utah, the law differs from other states in that it first subjects TANF applicants to a questionnaire and only tests those whose answers give the state a reasonable suspicion of drug use. The reasonable suspicion standard protects citizen’s rights and does not violate the Constitution’s protections against unreasonable search.   Furthermore, Utah’s law asks applicants to enroll in drug treatment. Wilson said the 12 people who tested positive for drugs are still receiving benefits.  I believe these provisions are essential.

“The whole purpose is to get people back to work,” said Rep. Brad Wilson, a Kaysville Republican who crafted the screening law. “We can’t get them back to work if they refuse to get into the program and do what they need to do.”

Some oppponents of welfare drug testing say it unfairly stigmatizes poor people.  “There is this notion that if you’re struggling to find employment, it must be because you’re using drugs,” said Gina Cornia, executive director of Utahns Against Hunger and a longtime activist seeking a welfare overhaul.

And she is correct that there is a stigma.  However, for me the issue is not about a stigma about the poor.  In fact, Utah proves that only 12 people on welfare tested positive for drug use.  But since they are all in rehabiliation programs, then I think that is a win.  I believe that people need to be assisted with their goals of being self sufficient and not needing welfare, which many states welfare/TANF programs require a goal plan for becoming self-sufficient.  The state provided 12 people the tools to stop using drugs (which may prohibit them from getting even the most basic of jobs via drug test) which is essential.  If we assume (and we don’t know it’s JUST an example) that those 12 people were addicted to heroin, a devastating drug are in rehabiliation programs then we are succeeding in helping those people to be self-sufficient.   The policy is not based on assumption that a large population of welfare applicants use drugs, Rep. Wilson said.  “But if we can help the 10 percent or so that are challenged with this, why wouldn’t we?” he said.  The law identifies those with drug issues early on in the process, and if they aren’t willing to get help or meet the requirements, they shouldn’t get benefits, Wilson said.  I find that to be a sound argument.  If a person is using drugs and aren’t willing to get help to resolve their illegal drug use, then why do they deserve financial help?

People have argued that it costs more than it saves.  However, Utah’s drug screening cost the state about $31,000. But state Rep. Brad Wilson (R-Kaysville) told HuffPost he thinks the bill saved more than it cost. He said an additional 247 Utah residents dropped out of the TANF application process after they were told to expect a drug test.

“We had 247 who once we told them, ‘our test shows that you are likely using controlled substances, we need you to take a drug test,’ they refused to move forward with the process,” said Wilson, who sponsored the new law. “The Department of Workforce Services here in Utah estimates the benefits of those folks would have received would have been approximately $369,000 of, basically, benefits we didn’t pay to people who were most likely using controlled substances. We spent $31,000 on this program over the last year but we think we’ve saved at least $370,000, if not more.”  Those people would have otherwise received more than $350,000 in benefits, according to the state Department of Workforce Services, which administers the welfare program and the drug screening.  Supporters of the program, like myself, are pointing to about 250 people who failed to meet drug screening requirements during the year and were barred from receiving or applying for benefits for three months.

Some people have brought up other points “like why aren’t the politicians being tested?”  The argument for employment requirements to be a public servant (whether city controller, Mayor, congressman, president) is an entirely different issue, so let’s stick to the issue, instead of distracting people from the issue at hand: drug testing welfare participants.
Others have commented that companies make money and political corruption/kickbacks for passing drug testing laws.  Obviously, suspected political corruption/kickbacks have long been an issue.  The issue once again is corruption, not the legislation in question.

So, in conclusion, I believe that all welfare participants should be drug tested.  Not only is it socially responsible but financially as well.

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About Jimmy

I am a quirky guy whose passions include reading, traveling, business and enjoying life to the fullest.

Posted on July 28, 2014, in News & Politics, Opinions, Political and tagged , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Comments Off on Drug Testing Welfare Recipients?.

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