Reader Feedback On Drug Testing Welfare Recipients

Last month, we asked you for your take on laws that require welfare recipients to take and pass a drug test in order to receive benefits. It was a hot topic, generating more comments than any blog posting since the U.S. attorney crackdown in California. We also set up a survey, which over 700 of you responded to.

So, what were the results? The vast majority of you, about 74%, were opposed to drug testing aid recipients altogether. The rest of you split roughly evenly between support for testing recipients for all drugs and support for testing for “hard drugs,” but not marijuana. The survey results skewed along the same lines as the views of our commenters, most of whom were opposed to testing altogether. Here’s a sampling of some other thoughts from our commenters:

Commenter Justin wants to look past ideology and focus on results:

Of course we would all likely prefer people receiving government assistance not use that aid to purchase anything besides the bare essentials. And if there were any indication that drug testing prevents drug use I would fully endorse its use. But the reality is every indication points to drug testing as being a very poor deterrent to drug use, in other words it simply doesn’t work

Reader David says if you’re going to drug test, do it consistently and equally:

I think anybody who receives government money, this includes all politicians and elected officials, should be subjected to random drug screens. What’s fair is fair.

Many of you agreed with Patrick in singling out companies that conduct testing:

 … the real beneficiary of drug testing welfare recipients is the dirty drug testing industry who I personally would love to see destroyed … We all know that the drug testing industry lobbies hard to maintain marijuana prohibition as they have a vested interest in doing so.

Thanks to all of you for responding to the survey and to those of you who took extra time to leave your thoughts in the comments section. As an organization focused on optimizing policy with respect to marijuana, we agree with the overwhelming majority of our members that drug testing aid recipients is intrusive, ineffective, and wasteful, and we will continue advocating against bills that require testing as a condition for receiving benefits.

We welcome our supporters’ feedback on this and other issues. If you’d like to share your opinion, leave your comments here at the blog or contact us directly. We can’t do our work without you, so it’s important to us that we have your support. Thanks again!

32 thoughts on “Reader Feedback On Drug Testing Welfare Recipients”

  1. I’d also like to add that if we were truly interested in assuring that welfare recipients aren’t squandering benefits we would insist that they use the money only for bare essentials by requiring them to submit receipts for the money they get. After all, why focus on someone who may be using welfare to maintain a drug habit while letting others buy tobacco, alcohol, or even movie tickets for that matter? This is why I believe drug testing welfare recipients has nothing to do with assuring benefits are used for the purpose they are issued and more to do with keeping the drug testing industry raking in the cash that they use to buy our government.

  2. MPP… I heard a rumor that Donald Trump will anounce his run for pres in may. Why wait so long and where does he stand on the cannabis issue? Both med mj and also the legalization aspect of the issue. We all know where Newt Romney stand!!!

  3. The Florida situation amazingly showed that aid recipients were half as likely than the national average to be using illegal drugs. But moreb importantly these tests are a violation of our 4th amendments, and if all state employees and contractors don’t have to take these tests then it is showing an unconstitutional discriminatory bias against the poor.

  4. Glad to see some attention on this issue. Greg said it already but it bears repeating that drug testing has little or nothing to do with preventing drug use and everything to do with maintaining a very profitable industry. Keep up the fight!

  5. Florida spent 160 million on drug testing of welfare people. They got a 2% failure rate with 2% refusing to take the test in the first place. 96 percent passed. That means Florida is going to save between 40 to 60 thousand dollers in welfare costs. Who in the world can even try to justify that such a total waste of 159, 994,000 dollers to save 60,000. That is why Florida is trying to keep this fiasco as quiet as possible. When Florida first came up with the idea it was all over the news. After the results came back we have heard nothing else in Mn. about the waste of Floridas tax dollers.

  6. Greg mentioned use of welfare funds to buy tobacco and alcohol– look for the stores selling these drug items clustered right near welfare housing, a dead giveaway (or do you say a death giveaway– tobacco (cigarettes) 6 million a year, alcohol 2.5 million a year, see Douglas Bettcher, WHO press release, May 30, 2011) .

    Thanks to Clarence for interesting numbers– check how much $igarette tax revenue Florida is taking yearly (nationwide over $30 billion) to make it worth while for Florida to spend this $160 mil. criminalizing rival smokeable product, cannabis, as a favor to their $$pals (and employers of lawbuyists) in the $igarette industry.

  7. Most all employers including the government require you to take a drug test before being hired. Also, if you are in the military you are required to take drug random test. So yes I think that people receiving aid from the government should have to take drug test and agree to random drug testing before receiving any help. Possibly the people in Florida didn’t test positive to drugs because they didn’t want to loose their aid. If it was my only income and my housing was furnish by the government, I would think twice before screwing it up. I do think that Arkansas is going in the right direction in legalizing medical marijuana. I know what pain, nausea and anxiety are all about. Having been told by medical personal that marijuana would help, as it is I can not purchase it or use it legally.Currently if I test positive for any type drugs other than what is prescribed I no longer receive prescriptions for my medicine. People it’s time to make marijuana legal for medical use!

  8. Mary Jane you are sending mixed signals. First of all you support drug testing. How can you support drug testing for cannabis while at the same time support med mj? Do you not think that just maybe some med mj patients will need unemployment at some time? What about the single perent who gets a script for med mj, who needs food support? how are those to even survive with such stupid and most importantly, unconstitutional laws against cannabis in the first place.

  9. My understanding is Medical Marijuana will require a prescription from a Doctor and will be purchased only from licensed clinics. The clinics will issue Photo ID Cards which you must have to purchasing Medical Marijuana. Clinics will need a computer systems that links all clinics so it is available to track what you have purchased and when. Much like a pharmacy does when purchasing certain over the counter medications. This would only allow you to purchase the legal amount each month.

    If you get stopped by law officals or test possitive to marijuana you have your Medical ID Card. No citation should be issued. However if you have more that the legal amount of marijuana there should be a citation issed.

    My concern is how Arkansas Employers are going to handle Medical Marijuana. Are they going to treat it like any other prescribed medication? If not they will be discrimating against card carring Medical Marijuan user.

    I still think that anyone receiving goverment aid should have to have a drug test and agree to random testing. If they are Card carrying Medical Marijuana users they have a legal out. However those that don’t should be given the option to go to rehab and start receiving aid. If they fail to complet rehab and still test positive for drugs they should be given one warning. If they still don’t comply their aid should be denied. Children should be removed and placed with relatives or in foster care .

  10. If 20% of the population uses drugs and you require drug testing for gov.aid.Then you’re gonna save 20%

  11. Using government aid for purchasing alcohol and tobacco products is illegal. It’s is illegal for a business to sell tobacco and alcohol products to a person using a government card, they too are breaking the law.

    The government no longer mailing out checks. It is put on a card similar to a debit card. The wick program vouchers are mailed out and they state exactly what you are allowed to buy.

  12. Apparently Mary Jane is ignoring the fact that drug testing just isn’t effective. Would anyone suggest a mammogram if there were no indication it they detected breast cancer? Perhaps a pervert would but for a different reason. Drug testing does nothing to prevent drug use, so why would anyone support it under any circumstances? The answer is pretty simple really, they either aren’t too bright or they profit from the industry in some way. So which is it Mary Jane?

  13. Cannabis stays in your system far longer than anything else a common pee test looks for. The vast majority of people who fail a test fail it for nothing more than cannabis. Drug testing is extremely biased against cannabis users, it would be more aptly named cannabis testing. If I could use meth four days ago and cannabis four weeks ago and only test positive for cannabis it’s pretty clear where the drug testing industry allegiances lie and it’s not to preventing drug use. Their only concern is profit. A vast conspiracy between the drug testing industry and insurance companies ensure that anyone who won’t submit a pee sample will remain a marginal member of our society.

  14. Sorry to see that Mary Jane has bought into these lies like so many others. Maybe once she gets her first false positive result and loses her aid through no fault of her own it will change her mind. Perhaps one day she will realize that she is denied helpful medication through drug testing while a meth user can still test clean if they cycle right.

  15. I have never had to apply for financial aid but have worked out in the public starting at the age of 16. I am now in my late 50′s and am tired of my tax dollars going to people who refuse to try to help themselves. Yes, some do take advantage of the system to better themselves but the majority refuse to try; I bet those that try to better themselves are going to be far less likely to test positive for marijuana or other types of drugs. If marijuana is made legal for medical use then even more people would be able to use.

    I have tested a false positive and was put on leave of absent until the second drug test results were received. As for drug testing not helping the problem I know a number of people who no longer use marijuana and/or a number of other illegal drugs. They have chosen to no longer use drugs they know that if they test positive they could loose their jobs. So according to you drug testing is not what kept them from using drugs . I have to disagree!

    As for mammograms this too can test a false positive and false negative, How do I know this? I are living proof. Most insurance companies will cover mammograms in full. There are also clinics which do them free of charge if you don’t have any insurance.or are in the low to middle income bracket.

    Just wanted to state my opinion and I think some of you are ill informed on the laws concerning financial aid and some of the new state laws concerning marijuana. I only issue warrants for those that are accused of breaking the law. It’s the courts that declare them either guilty or innocent.

    I do favor the legalization of marijuana for medical use!!!!!

  16. You missed the point entirely. Drug testing prevents cannabis use given how long it stays in your system. But if you use any other drug you can easily test negative with a little planning. Granted most true addicts can’t go without long enough to test clean but they aren’t the ones interviewing for too many jobs either. Any way you look at it drugged testing is ineffective.

  17. @RonCombs, I’m sorry to tell you this, but it is not that simple. The way most of these programs are set up, as Clarence mentioned earlier, is that the people trying to get welfare have to pay for their own drug test, but if they pass it, the state has to reimburse them.

    So let’s say 20% of the people applying for aid test positive and are denied benefits. The government saves 20% of the aid they would have given out, but now they have to pay for 80% of the tests that were administered.

    In the case of Florida, the state was in the hole for thousands of dollars within the first month of the program. Not only is this program unjust and a violation of privacy, it is economically unsound.

  18. I’am facing a drug test this am at my pain mngt Dr – a note was posted in his office that anyone testing positive for pot will no longer receive narcotics from him for pain. I’am very concerned and I hope that sanity will reign…. Makes me sick

  19. Not only do the testing companys benifit but it gives the government another loophole to invade our privacy. that, and anyone that smokes lightly will beat the test plenty of water the night before and then before the test test drink about a gallon until you have peede about five -six times. take b vitamins for color aND WA-LAA a clean test. this will not work for heavy smokers but a joint or two a day you will be ok. MJ has many med. benifits that the Gov. hides – got keep all them comanys in bussiness you know, and then we have the Govenor of AZ. who ignored the votors and is trying to block the opening dispenseries – she will eventually lose – with 15000+ cards issued , most with grow permits, think about 15000+ grow operations. Gotta love it.
    Alex

  20. To be honest, I can’t think of any good reason to drug test anyone for any purpose.
    Impairment testing for certain safety-critical jobs/activities may be in order, but not through any chemical detection. I’m sure a properly programmed GameBoy or whatever would do a good job of detecting those unfit to fly a plane, drive a truck or whatever.
    Antihystamines and many other prescribed or OTC substances can impair the taker at least as much as many illegal substances. Not to mention fatigue from being an overzealous worker.
    Public assistance-wise, if the objective is to prevent misuse of funds, check for registration of recreational and sports vehicles, tobacco abuse etc.

  21. If they want to drug test welfare recipients I say Politicians go first and they will back off immediately. I want to know what legal psychotropic drugs they are taking.

  22. Bad idea. The people that will end up suffering are the kids. The parents who use or are addicted, will be denied food stamps and money for housing creating more homeless, starving families and people that invariably will resort to crime to get money and food.

    More people will end up in jail/prisons which are already overcrowded and the kids will be placed into the social system which has no room for them either…and this will be at taxpayers’ expense. We’ll end up paying FAR MORE MONEY in the end (it costs on average, $45,000 per year per inmate-estimated current population of incarcerated people, 2,266,800). To me, this whole concept is an incredibly short-sighted knee-jerk reaction with potentially far reaching and costly consequences.

  23. How dare you Mary Jane. Speaking as a very sick person I know you have been brain washed by the system. What give’s a man or woman the rite to tell another man or woman what he or she can or can not ingest into their body if it is to their self preservation and comfort in a bad medical situation? Why don’t you step out side of the box and insted of ignorance of fairness be a little more compassionate. If one is tested all should test only if all agree with being tested.

  24. By the way I served 6 yr’s in the military am a Grand Pa,Son,Father’Dad,Brother,Uncle,Cusin, and a Patriot of this great country. I’v been through this testing all of my life and it is the most control the system has when it come’s to the people. The people are suppose to control and test the system not the other way around. Do you see the pic. outside of the box now? Mary?.

  25. Drug testing people, our citizens, who receive assistance from the state is an awful display of materialism. This intrusive policy simply continues the drug testing industry’s soaring, greedy profits. Ignoring the compassion that we all should be sharing with our poorest citizens.
    Peace

  26. 1st Drug test are readily available at any drug store, and by sending someone somewhere else you are give them the opportunity to mask their drug use. I believe Welfare recipients should be tested for illegal drug use on the spot. 2nd If you are prescribe a drug, then by using it you are not breaking the law and they’re for have nothing to worry about. 3rd Testing is not trying to keep people from spending the given money on things they need or even want, it simply say if you uses drugs illegally while on welfare you lose your benefits. If you are able to take care of your family and self financially then do what you please. If you are requiring financial assistance from the state to support yourself and/or family then what the hell are you doing buying drugs with what little money you have. Hell, if you are prescribed a drug then the welfare system will help you buy that drug. As for the Politicians they are supporting themselves and their families, besides you among others voted them in to their position. If your not breaking the law and hurting what MMP has fought so hard to get then you have nothing to be afraid of.

  27. Cannabis. pot. weed. whatever you want to call it should be legalized completely for use by adults just like the substances currently allowed by the Gov. ie., tobacco and alcohol. A test for use prior to work, say with a 6 hr. window could be emploed to insure persons are not using prior to starting their workday could be employed using saliva . Face it no one should be cannabis or alcohol on the job or showing up to work visibly impaired due to safety concerns for others.

  28. If i have to pass a drug test to work and pay taxes that go towards welfare the people receiving the welfare should have to pass a drug test as well

  29. It’s funny that most bloggers use improper spelling and grammer!
    Mary Jane is a complete idiot! Justin makes the most sense.
    The Fourth Amendment of the Constitution guarantees your Right to be secure in your papers , effects, and belongings! This includes your own body!
    The Constitution does not protect you from private employers, it protects you from an ever oppressive, Nanny State Government!
    Mary Jane probably has never had an original thought on this topic.
    If you want to be taken seriously by your elected officials, check your spelling and grammar! Otherwise, they will consider you a “nut case”!
    The Marijuana Tax Act of 1938 was racist in origin. Read about Mr. Anslinger! He manipulated statistics to get his way! With lies!
    Those of you that want drug testing, are envious and pious in your self rightious thinking! EDUCATE YOURSELVES! Read the Bill of Rights! It says what the government may, and can’t do to you!
    I support legalization of marijuana, and it’s taxation. Anyone providing or selling of it to minors should be dealt with severly.
    In summary, VOTE! Only if you know what you are doing! if you do not know who the Vice President is, you should not vote! You will do more harm than good.

  30. I was typing in the dark, and misspelled the word grammar, using an”e” instead of an”a”! SORRY!!

    Learn what your rights are. Learn how to exersize your rights with any police encounters! Do not be rude, but be firm!
    If the police ask if they may search your vehicle, that means that they don’t have probable cause! Make them obtain a warrant! Most judges won’t issue one if there is no probable cause!
    If you are asked to get out of your car, you must obey the officer. Roll up your windows and lock your doors! Do not allow police to play games with you! Tell them that you don’t consent to any searches, and ask if you are being detained, or under arrest! If they answer “No.” then ask for permission to depart company.
    Police may perform what is known as a “Terry Search.”( look up Terry v. Ohio that went to the U.S. Supreme Court!) They may pat you down looking for weapons only! If you have pot in your pocket, they are not allowed to place their hands in your pockets!
    NEVER argue with a cop! Save it for a judge! You won’t win a pissing match with a cop! You do not have to tell them where you are going or where you are coming from. DON’T TALK TO THEM! If the say they will try to help you, they are lying! It’s against the law to lie to law enforcement, but not for them to lie to you!
    When an officer asks you a question, answer with a question! Don’t fall prey to their sneaky tactics!

  31. ALL ELECTED OFFICIALS SHOULD HAVE TO TAKE A DRUG TEST IF YOU HAVE TO! They are our servants, not the other way around!
    Most politicians are alcoholics and abuse their power.
    That includes Indiana State Senator Ronnie Alting! Google him!
    Governor Mitch Daniels got busted at Princeton in the seventies for two size 12 shoe boxes of pot, LSD, and possession of prescription
    pills not prescribed to him! He got off with a $350 fine!

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