HomeOpinionDrug Test Welfare Recipients. Really? Hmm.

By Linda Wolf,WWH – There’s been a lot of talk recently about drug testing welfare recipients. A couple states already have laws and other states have proposals to change the law on drug testing for ‘welfare recipients’. Some of the states include Ohio, Rhode Island, and Illinois to name a few. We all know that Florida already passed a similar law. Sounds like a great idea, huh? As a hard working American the last thing we want to do is help the underprivileged by supporting their drug habit, right? Let’s look at the facts and throw out all the useless rhetoric that you’ve heard.

Welfare is defined as ‘a financial or other assistance to an individual or family from a city, state, or national government.’ This includes assistance in food, housing, child care, unemployment and job training assistance.

Who exactly are ‘welfare recipients’? Most follow former President Ronald Reagan’s outdated statement of a black ‘welfare queen’. This mythical ‘queen’ supposedly had numerous children from a variety of fathers while collecting thousands of dollars from the state and federal government. To date, no one has ever been able to track down this ‘so called’ queen. The truth is most welfare recipients are not black.

In 1996, The Welfare Reform Act changed ‘welfare’. Gasp! Those people actually had to go out and get jobs!

Flash forward to present day. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, (BLS) Illinois, Ohio, Rhode Island, Florida, Michigan and Nevada have some of the highest unemployment rates. These same states are vying for drug testing welfare recipients. Imagine that. It should come as no surprise that most of the time, a Republican sponsored the drug testing bill.

The BLS (Bureau of Labor Statistics) shows the national unemployment rate of about 9% does not include ‘underutilized’ workers. What are underutilized workers? Unemployed people seeking full time work, someone who has been unemployed for a long time and has given up hope of finding any work or someone who wants a full time job but has to take a part time one just to survive. The BLS also shows the unemployment rate is rising for the non college educated people over college graduates holding a Bachelor degree or higher. Further, the unemployment rate for blacks has declined 15%. So, who exactly are we testing? The unemployed? It’s not their fault they lost their job due to ‘corporate greed’.

I’ve heard people say they get drug tested at work so everyone else should be too. How many of us are really drug tested? Industrial or factory workers, viewed by society as uneducated. The new trend is for less drug testing of employees. Some of the reasons include ‘false positives’ and the high cost because few employees tested positive.

The ACLU (American Civil Liberties Union), which was backed by the Republican party in the past, is our nation’s guardian of liberty. The ACLU protects the rights that our constitution founded. They work ‘daily in courts, legislatures and communities to defend and preserve the individual rights and liberties that the Constitution and laws of the United States guarantee everyone in this country’. (emphasis added) These rights are a guarantee of our First Amendment – the right for free speech, association and assembly; freedom of the press, and freedom of religion. Our other rights: equal protection under the law; protection against unlawful discrimination; your right to due process (fair treatment by the government whenever the loss of your liberty or property is at stake); Your right to privacy – freedom from unwarranted government intrusion into your personal and private affairs. The ACLU has stated that ‘70% of all illicit drug users (and presumably a much higher percentage of alcohol users) ages 18-49, are employed full time.’

Let’s delve deeper.

CLASP (Center for Law and Social Policy) stated: ‘Proposals for mandatory drug testing of TANF (Temporary Assistance to Needy Families) recipients are based on stereotypes and not evidence.’ It further stated proponents for drug testing are ‘based on a false assumption that many applicants will be denied benefits.’ Before Michigan stopped its policy, they found of the percentage of welfare recipients that tested positive for illicit drugs, only 3% tested positive for ‘hard’ drugs like cocaine. These rates are in line with drug use of general population. The ACLU has also stated that marijuana stays in the body longer than more dangerous drugs like cocaine or methamphetamine.

OSHA, (Occupational Safety and Health Administration) is the main federal agency charged with the enforcement of safety and health legislation. OSHA has stated: “A comprehensive drug free workforce includes a policy, supervisor training, employee education, employee assistance, and drug testing. Such programs, especially when drug testing is included must be reasonable and take into consideration employee rights to privacy.” (emphasis added) The late Supreme Court Justice Louis Brandeis said the ‘right to be left alone is the most comprehensive of rights and the right most valued by civilized men.” Drug testing welfare recipients does not take into consideration their right to privacy. Another reason drug tests discriminate is because they show past use done on the employees own time and not their current state.

Recently, Florida has stopped testing recipients because federal Judge Mary Scriven ruled it may violate the Constitution’s ban on unreasonable search and seizures. This was in a case where a 35 year old Navy veteran and single father who applied while he was finishing his college degree refused to take the test and in turn, filed a lawsuit. Before the testing was halted, less than 10% actually tested positive! So far, there have been no statistics on how much all this testing has cost the taxpayers.

Michigan’s drug testing law was ruled unconstitutional and had to change their policy. The lawmakers removed language from welfare reform legislation this spring. Michigan now requires the state to test recipients for substance abuse if a reasonable suspicion of abuse exists. (emphasis added). Seems that just being unemployed and broke is not reason enough to test.

Has anyone really stopped to think? Who can afford drugs? A recent ‘Yahoo’ article stated that most of the ‘Unemployed No Longer Receive Benefits”. It states that last year ‘75% were receiving unemployment checks. The figure is now 48%. Nearly one-third of Americans 14 billion unemployed have had no job for a year a more.’ The cost of an ounce of marijuana can run anywhere from $150 to $500. A gram of cocaine can cost upwards of $400. Who has the money for illegal drugs? Further, what about the abuse of prescription drugs? Because the drug is ‘legal‘ does that make it ok?

Lastly, who will we be hurt by drug testing welfare recipients? Children. Representative Marcia Fudge in Ohio recently found out that nearly half of food stamp recipients (SNAP) have children under 18. Statistics have shown that over 33% of drug tests are false positive! So, why should children suffer because their parents can’t find a job and through no fault of their own, collect any assistance?

Before we rubber stamp drug testing welfare recipients, let’s look at the facts. It’s an invasion of privacy for outdated thinking, the states will lose money and the unemployed poor and their children will suffer. Seems to me the facts outweigh the rhetoric.

Linda Wolf lives in Cleveland, Ohio. She is proud to call herself a hippie and lives believes in the true value of peace and love. Her motto: Why can’t we all just get along? 🙂


Drug Test Welfare Recipients. Really? Hmm. — 14 Comments

  1. Linda you have some very valid points but I have many reservations concerning your article, Although I respect your point of view I take acception That I can and have been randomly drug tested over 30 yrs as a law enforcement agent, If I can be randomely tested than why not a recipiant of Federal or State asssistance be tested, if they are doing nothing illegal why not be tested, and if they are on drugs why not try an rehabilitate. I have seen no recovery of our drug abusers going to prison if nothing else they come out with a prison Degree , meaning they now no more about how to try and get away with more criminal acts,, The recidisism rate for drug abusers is around 90% it is a grim fiqure which shows our system is broke. As the thin Blue line we try an beleive we are making a difference when our own country and our so called leaders do nothing but throw us under the bus , With this being said I say Test them or Rehab ,,,

    • Thank you Carl for taking the time out to read my article and respond. 🙂

      I think we’re going to have to agree to disagree on this. As a law enforcement agent, one is held to a higher accountability than most people who work. It makes sense that if one is going to be arresting someone for drug use, he/she should be ‘clean’.

      You say that ‘if they are doing nothing illegal why not be tested’, it doesn’t matter. The federal courts have found that random drug testing is in violation of our rights. Just t because one receives assistance, does not give anyone the right to violate their privacy.

      I agree, there should be a lot more rehabilitation, especially for people who are in prisons for drug use. The problem is, who is going to pay for it? Most people are screaming for less government and spending, so who is going to foot the bill?

      If one has to be drug tested, we need to make sure there is a reason or suspicion for doing it. Not just because they receive food stamps or unemployment.

      Also, the biggest increase in drug use lately have been an abuse of prescription drugs, not illegal drugs.

      Again, thanks for reading and writing!

  2. i dont really understand why so many people have such misguided anger is to ease there own guilt? welfare charity paying it forward or the feeling your helping in some way even if its not evident right now. once you really understand giving youll really find out what you have and accepting help when needed shouldent come with strings none of us are perfect people with true addictions are the who really need help the most

    • Dave, you are so right! Let’s help others and not judge them!

      Fact I recently learned: most “drug addicts” are addicted to PRESCRIPTION medicine. The true ‘pushers’ are the doctors. Just saying…

      Thanks, Dave – and I agree with you 100%. Thanks for taking the time to write. 🙂

  3. Linda,

    Interesting arguments; however, they are mostly wrong. The problem of costs being greater than the benefits could be easily addressed by making the testing discretionary or even random, not mandatory. The IDEA of drug testing (random or otherwise) may be enough to keep recipients clean without even having to spend money on such tests.

    Also, drug testing is clearly NOT unconstitutional (sorry judge and ACLU, you’re wrong) because a recipient CHOOSES to receive assistance. If drug testing is part of the requirements (like a background check for a job) then live with it. No one is forcing you to receive welfare. And yes, many of us working folks actually do get drug tested, at least at the start of a new job. I didn’t have to accept my current position if I wanted to avoid a drug test, but chose to do it because I wanted the job!

    It’s not a bad idea to stipulate drug testing for college students who receive federal grants or loans. Again, just the IDEA of testing may be enough to deter self-destructive behavior without having to actualy spend money on testing.

    Finally, the “suffering children” argument is your weakest point. The last desperate pitch of a good hippie/liberal/progressive is to invoke the children who suffer if we don’t implement xyz. You lose credibility by going to this well. Children suffer not for lack of a federal program, but solely because parents have failed them. If you lost your job would you let your children starve? Wouldn’t you wash dishes, mow lawns, or clean toilets to make sure your family is fed?

    Rather than hope an inefficient, bureaucratic, unaccountable federal program will solve the problem, we should rely on our community to help each other. Local food banks, churches or a community charity–these are all significantly more effective at helping people in need than some government program. Hopefully more and more people will start to realize in the future.

    • Hi ohms. Thanks for reading my article 🙂 Normally, once my articles are out for a week or two, I don’t bother checking for any comments, so I apologize for getting back to you so late.

      That being said, I’ll try to refute your opinions with fact. I should probably note that I used to be a paralegal, so I learned how to research many years ago.

      First: “The problem of costs being greater than the benefits could be easily addressed by making the testing discretionary or even random, not mandatory. The IDEA of drug testing (random or otherwise) may be enough to keep recipients clean without even having to spend money on such tests. “. Really? Where’s your proof? Of the studies I saw, that is not true. Let’s say for example, a test costs a company $100 to be able to administer. (not counting the lab or dr fees), for a false positive reading. Statistically, 2 to 4 out of 100 may test positive – give or take the false positive readings. Even IF the test is positive, how much do you think the company is going to lose in lawyer fees? (the only one who wins here is the lawyer charging $225 an hour)

      “Also, drug testing is clearly NOT unconstitutional (sorry judge and ACLU, you’re wrong) because a recipient CHOOSES to receive assistance.” The JUDGE and the ACLU are FEDERAL extension of the Government. Explain to me how they are wrong. Most of the population is UNEMPLOYED, and therefore, receiving some kind of assistance. Do I have to explain why there are so many unemployed?

      Representative Fudge said nearly half of food stamp recipients (SNAP) have children under 18. (She was checked by political meter and was found to be TRUE) Statistics have shown that over 33% of drug tests are false positive! So, why should children suffer because their parents can’t find a job and through no fault of their own, collect any assistance?
      Yet, you state “If you lost your job would you let your children starve? Wouldn’t you wash dishes, mow lawns, or clean toilets to make sure your family is fed?” I’ve been unemployed, I lost my job when the economy took a dive. My children DIDN’T starve as I was broke enough to collect food stamps. EVEN if I found a job washing dishes, mowing lawns, etc., do you REALLY think anyone would be able to survive on that? How much do you think I’d be making?

      Thanks for taking the time to read, and comment, on my article ohms. It makes this writer’s day to find out that someone actually read and commented on my article! Good luck to you, and thanks again. 🙂

      their parents can’t work. They suffer not only from living in a depressed

  4. Hmm–well there are drugs and then there are drugs. Would I feel comfortable knowing a crack head is doing nothing but collecting benefits? Not really. Do I care if someone is smoking dope and collecting benefits? Not, at all. Nothing is black or white these days. I had some good friends that were unemployed, because of a massive lay off. They had to receive benefits for a while and they smoked dope..dope that they grew, not paid for and they are good and decent people.

    There is not an easy solution to the problem. Start drug testing them and watch some kids starve. Start drug testing them and watch how many that don’t have health insurance become sick with medicinal marijuana.

    The system needs work, but drug testing isn’t going to fix it.

    Lastly, as a very good friend of mine always says….Nobody gets rich on welfare, anyway.

    Great article Linda!

  5. It is not that I did not want to read your article. I didnt want it crammed down my throat. I wanted to read it on my own time.

    You asked for my honest opinion… So here it goes

    I disagree with your “studies” After talking with 10 of my friends, those who come from different views, backgrounds then my own, all 10 of them thought we SHOULD drug test welfare recipients.

    I personally feel that if I have to get drug tested to get a job, that will provide others with welfare benefits, then you should have to be tested to recieve them. Why should I work hard, so others can smoke, snort it away.

    I was a single mom for many years. working two jobs. It would make me sick to see people come through line at the grocery store I worked at, with their food stamp card, wearing VERY expensive clothing.

    This public agenda study is interesting

    I feel that those who oppose drug testing, are those who are on welfare themselves. Do they know that they will test positive? Hmmmm.

    Congratulations on your first controversial published article. I hope that you are proud

    There you have it, my honest opinion. Drug Test for welfare benefits. I dont want to support anyone else’s habit when I am having a hard time making ends meet myself.

    • Thank you for taking the time to read my article and to respond! I agree, we’ve all seen or know of people who do abuse the system. Like the old saying goes ‘one bad apple shouldn’t spoil the whole bunch’. On the other spectrum, we’ve all heard of the executives of a ‘bailed out’ insurance company who spent thousands of dollars on lavish spa treatments and other things. Two wrongs don’t make it right.

      I’m grateful we have our amendment rights – it’s what our country was founded on. Thank God for our freedom to write and disagree with each other. I truly believe, as does the Federal government, that drug testing welfare recipients violates our constitutional rights. I stand by my statistics and studies as they are taken from either a work cited article or our government. It’s ok that you don’t agree, this is America., it’s a fundamental right.

      I also don’t want to support anyone’s drug habit but I disagree with labeling or thinking of all welfare recipients as drug addicts when statistics show they aren’t.

      Again, thanks for taking the time to read and respond to my article.

  6. How’s this for weird? I have family members who refused to read this article because it may clash with their beliefs! I really wish people would take them selves out occasionally and realize there are others out there. ESPECIALLY in this time of Thanksgiving! 🙂

  7. Like I said in another column, I’ll go punch a welfare person in the face if I get to punch a testing advocate in the face and call it just as fair……

  8. I had asked that same question a few months ago and still found there were many who still demanded drug testing. When I asked how were these tests paid for and given, A.) the small number that failed, and B.) the number of false positives, did the end result justify the costs?

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