Should Weed Cost You Your Welfare?
1 year ago
Drug testing for social services criminalizes the poor
The New York Times reported earlier this week that a growing number of states are considering forcing recipients of government benefits to undergo mandatory drug testing in order to access needed social services. This year alone legislators in thirty six states have proposed measures that would require persons who receive welfare, unemployment insurance, job training, food stamps and subsidized housing to be tested. Arizona, Indiana and Missouri have already passed such laws and Florida actually requires welfare recipients to pay for their own drug tests. The American Civil Liberties Union has actually filed a suit against the state, claiming that the requirement constitutes illegal search and seizure.
Speaking of Florida, the early adopter state found that 96% of welfare recipients tested negative for drug usage; 2% declined to take the test. And the state saved less than $100k in its denial of benefits to the 2% of recipients who tested positive. That's not taking a big chunk out of the $178 million dollars the state will spend this year on cash assistance benefits. As Sun Sentinel columnist Michael Mayo points out, Florida does NOT require testing for foster parents, legislators, judges, scholarship recipients, or employees of the firms that receive the largest state contracts. By using such a "haphazard" approach to cutting back on government monies that can be used to purchase drugs, Governor Rick Scott seems to be more interested in playing politics than he is in actually trying to reign in spending.
While there are plenty of potential legal consequences possible for someone who is using illegal drugs, these policies criminalize people who find themselves requiring government help during trying times; there is an inherent suggestion that poor people are more likely to be drug users than say, wealthy folks who can afford to hide their habits. Social services are provided by taxpayer dollars, not by some benevolent government doing 'favors' for its people. Needing assistance in feeding your family or keeping a roof over your head does not make one a ward of the state.