Drug Tests May Be Imposed on Welfare Recipients

April 6, 2009 at 8:30 pm 1 comment

Eight – yes, eight – states are considering making welfare recipients pass drug tests in order to receive welfare money. West Virginia, Kansas, Florida, Minnesota, Missouri, Hawaii, and Oklahoma all are considering or are in the process of enacting such laws. (Arizona already failed in January to pass a bill that would enact this policy).

At first, this proposal seems like a sensible way to make sure that the poor, who are receiving financial assistance from the government, do not ‘waste their money on drugs’. However, it simply singles out the poor for an activity common to people of all socioeconomic backgrounds.

There is no debate that the rich and poor alike use drugs. However, poor people are more likely than the rich to be on welfare (what an understatement). Arrests for drug charges are already dramatically skewed by race and socioeconomic class. While the basic fact remains that nobody should be punished for issues such as marijuana use, the fact that a person on welfare should lose a crucial part of their day-to-day budget for it is as preposterous as the Rockefeller Drug Laws in New York.

You might argue ‘But why should they be allowed to waste government money?’ That depends on your definition of the word ‘waste’. Is it wasting money when they instead buy tobacco and alcohol? Or lottery tickets? What someone does with their money is their own business – absent harm to others – and if you want to ensure that they use it ‘properly’ (according to your defintion of that word), then that’s what food stamps are for. (That’s another debate that I won’t start here).

Drug tests, simply put, are an invasion of privacy. Assuming that one’s use of marijuana does not interfere with one’s job, it should not be a factor in employment decisions (and the same logic applies to welfare). This is the same policy that most companies have regarding tobacco and alcohol use – as long as a person does not show up to work drunk or smoke in the office, their use of these two drugs is considered acceptable. If someone does not show up to work while high or otherwise let their use of marijuana affect their work performance, their use of this drug should be considered acceptable as well.

If you live in one of the states that are considering this legislation, please contact your legislators and inform them of your opposition. A sample script/letter is follows (you can modify the text to fit the situation in your state).

 

Dear ____________________

I am shocked to hear that legislators in ________ (your state) are considering subjecting welfare recipients to drug testing. This is an invasion of privacy, as well as discrimination against lower socioeconomic classes.

People of all levels of income and all races use drugs such as marijuana, just as people of all levels of income use tobacco and alcohol. The idea that the poor should be singled out for using one of these drugs goes against the idea of equality that this country stands for.

Whatever the reasons a welfare recipient may have for buying and using drugs, this decision should not threaten his or her means of survival. Such policies only serve to entrench welfare recpients further in poverty.

This policy will not reduce drug use. It will reduce the number of eligible welfare recipients, but at a huge, immeasurable cost to society by increasing the number of people who live in extreme poverty and have no access to government assistance. I urge you to oppose this policy.

Sincerely,

____________

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Entry filed under: Arizona, Citizen Action, Florida, Hawaii, Kansas, Minnesota, Missouri, News, Oklahoma, West Virginia. Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , .

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