Is There Really Drug Testing for Government Benefits?

Drug testing in the workplace has been an issue for decades. With the changes in marijuana laws, more companies have started to consider changing drug testing policies when it comes to the use of cannabis.

Drug Testing For Welfare

However, at the same time, another issue continues with governments. In some states, drug testing has been implemented for those who apply for government assistance. That includes the very poor who need welfare assistance.

While this is an ongoing issue, at least 15 states currently have some sort of law in place that requires drug testing for applicants, according to the National Conference for State Legislatures (NCSL).

They are:

  • Alabama
  • Arkansas
  • Arizona
  • Florida
  • Georgia
  • Kansas
  • Michigan
  • Mississippi
  • Missouri
  • North Carolina
  • Oklahoma
  • Tennessee
  • Utah
  • West Virginia
  • Wisconsin.

Court Cases

Many of the laws have been taken to court. In Florida, for example, a district judge struck down the state law requiring drug testing. The decision was upheld on appeal to the state Supreme Court, according to the NCSL.

In Wisconsin, a proposal to test those who apply to the federal Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) Employment and Training program (the food stamp program) was struck down by the federal government, which said it violated the prohibition against states adding more criteria for program applicants. However, Wisconsin has sued over the issue.

In some states, testing is only required of those suspected of working in the illegal drug business (which, in all the states listed above, would include recreational use marijuana) or those suspected of drug abuse.  In Tennessee, for example, there is a “suspicion-based” program that went into effect in 2014.

In 2017, at least 20 states had legislation in the works that would require drug testing of assistance applicants, according to the NCSL.

At the federal level, the Trump Administration has signaled that it may favor drug testing those who apply for food stamps.

Synthetic Weed

In some cases, the laws have led to unintended consequences. For example, some people have turned to using highly dangerous synthetic marijuana so as not to fail the drug test.

There are serious health risks for using synthetic marijuana. Even the man who made the scientific breakthroughs that led to synthetic weed’s creation says it was never meant to be used on human beings.

With the potential for drug-testing for food stamps, many expect these issues to only worsen. About 43 million people in the United States are on the food stamp program. Even if the Trump Administration plan involves testing only about 5 percent of them, that still means testing about 2.1 million people.

So, for now, whether there is drug testing or not depends on the state where you live. However, if the Trump Administration’s plans move forward on testing food stamp applicants, it’s an issue that will impact the lives of millions of people across the country.

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