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Growing Number of States Require Drug Testing for People Receiving Benefits


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.

14 Responses to this article

  1. Avatar of Ashleigh
    Ashleigh / January 27, 2014 at 10:44 pm

    All states should require drug testing for any government assistance. If someone has money for drugs they have money for food. Ive been a cashier and I’ve seen the junk, candy and soda and chips, that ppl use food stamps on. That won’t keep a six year old from starving. A bag of salad, some chicken, and a bottle of ranch. Whoopie you have dinner for four.
    Not only that but if someone’s doing drugs around their six year old and the govt drug tests them and they fail, they themselves are punishing the child not the govt. The child was born to them. They didn’t get a chance day one to choose not to be around a parent shooting up or snorting their food and college fund away. If you get drug tested and fail they should automatically do a home visit and monitor the child’s environment. Next time someone rolls up that dollar bill just remember. The child couldn’t choose

    • Jim Mander / August 22, 2014 at 3:48 pm

      Disagree. I put money in the system, i expect to get my money back when needed. I didnt need to get a UA to get my job, so tell WHY should I have to be subjugated to having my excrements being sifted through? It is unconstitutional to implement this kinda of disgusting invasion of privacy, with no probable cause. So now what? Just because you are having a hard time or poor at that point in life, you are now a criminal and have to treated like a drug addict or someone who is on probation? You are as ridiculous as your proposal/stance on this. Besides drug testing only accounts for people who smoke pot. Every other “Real” drug (coke herion meth etc..) is out of your system within 3 days to a week. your proposal just wastes funds that could go to needy people, to waste on drug tests.

  2. Avatar of Dixie Stine
    Dixie Stine / June 23, 2012 at 5:58 am

    We have random drug testing in many work places. Why shouldn’t they be tested for drug use.

    • Jim Mander / August 22, 2014 at 3:58 pm

      Fine, if you had a job that drug tests, then you should be tested. If like me & didnt have to to get tested (i dont work for people who infringe on your constitutional rights without cause).
      Ill tell you why they shouldnt (besides being unconstitutional, which is the only real reason you need) besides that ,
      1.) its really only a pot test, because most drugs are out of your system in 3 – 7 days. You need blood or hair which is more expensive.
      2.)Not fair to those that get a job without testing.
      3.)Waste of money for tests (money better spent gong to the needy)
      5.)Behavior/habit control is not part of the Social Services (we have drug counselors for that)

  3. Avatar of Linda P.
    Linda P. / October 17, 2011 at 10:59 am

    How about drug testing every CEO and top manager of every company that has received bailout monies. How about drug testing every CEO of a company that filed for banruptcy and was allowed to re-organinze and continue doing business. How about taking the savings and investing this money in drug treatment services. How about calling this what it really is, racism pure and simple.

    • Sam / July 21, 2014 at 6:16 pm

      I fail to see how requiring drug testing for those wanting to receive free money, food, and other benefits as racists, unless you are under the belief that only blacks, Mexicans, and so forth receive benefits. I am white, my fiance is white, my baby, is white: we all receive benefits from the government, and I support drug testing. I know plenty of white people who receive benefits, and many I know shouldn’t because they are just abusing the system and wasting what little money they have on drugs, and refuse to actually look for a better paying job because they enjoy receiving the help they get. I believe they should be tested and they should no longer receive benefits. It isn’t an issue of racism – it is about money being spent wisely on those who actually should receive it. If the majority of welfare recipients who receive assistance are blacks who also abuse drugs, then oh well. Athletes are drug tested, those applying for jobs are rug tested, those who are working are sometimes drug tested as well in order to keep their job.

      • Jim Mander / August 22, 2014 at 4:16 pm

        it is racism if you know your own history. The main only drug that is majorly detected is marijuana (mexican slang term) also known as the POOR MAN”S DRUG. Other “real” drugs, coke, meth, herion etc.. are out of ur system 3 – 7 days. And if you consider HISTORY such as why pot is illegal you will find it was to criminalize mexicans in the early 1900′s during and completion of the railroads(as well as others asians etc.) Plain and Simple this is unconstitutional.
        I never drugged tested once for a job. Why should I to get tested for my money back when I didnt have to get tested to earn it?

  4. notwhatyouthink / October 17, 2011 at 9:53 am

    Not sure they expect to accomplish from this law? The people applying for benefits have children who are being punished by these laws. We are just creating culture of children who will grow up disenfranchised, angry, poor, and who will be tomorrow’s problem adults. Unless we just start exterminating people society will pay one way or another through crimes committed, health care issues or through a culture of radical revolutionist. Just another attempt to fix a problem by punishing people, like a drug screens and denying benefits is going to solve this issue.

  5. billinsandiego / October 14, 2011 at 5:36 pm

    A well-known failed policy – but unfortunately a well-loved policy by too many politicians. A better approach would be to drug-test politicians that continue to advocate for these kinds of nonsensical policies. There has got to be something really wrong with them.

  6. Joshua / June 25, 2012 at 1:37 pm

    yes, but lets not stop there though, lets go ahead and let the police search the homes of anyone who collects benefits from the government – they might be doing something illegal with the money.

  7. Avatar of unreconstructed
    unreconstructed / April 5, 2013 at 3:25 am

    How is this “racism pure and simple”? Are you referring to the African/Americans? I’m white, receiving S.N.A.P. and don’t have a problem what-so-ever taking a drug test. If I have enough money for drugs then I shouldn’t need to taxpayers to buy me food..but that’s just common sense and does not apply in a non-sensical world.

  8. Avatar of jon
    jon / August 16, 2013 at 5:18 pm

    I’m not sure the knowledge it will hurt children should be the deciding factor here. Should we let murderers go free because it might hurt or disadvantage his son/daughter to jail him. Most of you would probably say no there,but then what about drug dealers, or thieves, or one of a dozen other types who break the law. It’s all a matter of where we draw the line.

  9. Avatar of RAH
    RAH / August 27, 2013 at 8:59 am

    I agree with you in the old days the tax collector came to the houses and saw what you had and taxed each household. I know people receiving food stamps and other benefits that were upset because they had problems finding KINDLE Fires for their kids at Christmas time. If they went in the houses they would find their partners who are living with them and using someone else’s address as a mail stop so they qualify for government assisted housing. They may find that you and I are running up a national debt for people who are using loopholes in the system to get tens of thousands of dollars in benefits while they have a partner living with them making 30-50k a year in an area where median income is 32K a year.

  10. Jim Mander / August 22, 2014 at 4:24 pm

    Just because you are willing to throw your constitutional rights away for money you already put in the system. doesnt mean the rest of use are. Drug testing is unconstitutional pure and simple.

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