A growing number of states are requiring drug testing for recipients of welfare, food stamps, unemployment and other benefits.
Legislators in three dozen states have proposed drug testing this year for people who receive welfare benefits, The New York Times reports. Such laws have passed in Arizona, Indiana, Missouri and other states. In Florida, people who receive welfare benefits must pay for their own drug tests. The American Civil Liberties Union is suing the state on the grounds the law represents an unreasonable search and seizure.
Supporters of drug testing laws say they ensure that tax dollars are being properly used in a time of budget constraints, while critics say they reinforce negative stereotypes about poor people. Advocates for the poor are concerned testing programs that prevent some people from receiving money for basic necessities could worsen drug addictions and increase demand for substance abuse treatment.
Currently about 20 states prohibit unemployment payments for people who have lost a job because of drug use. More than a dozen states do not allow welfare benefits for someone convicted of a drug felony. In 2011, 36 states have considered drug testing for people who receive cash benefits from the main welfare program, Temporary Assistance for Needy Families.
Twelve states have proposed drug testing for unemployment insurance. Some states also have considered mandatory drug testing for other programs including food stamps and home heating assistance.