Head-to-head: Drug testing welfare recipients a waste of time,  unconstitutional, unfair to those in need of welfare
2 mins read

Head-to-head: Drug testing welfare recipients a waste of time, unconstitutional, unfair to those in need of welfare

In late January there was a push in Pierre to institute a bill that would require individuals who receive food stamps or cash assistance to pass a drug test before receiving benefits. Such a plan would be a disastrous waste of time and money for several reasons.

Legally, it’s unconstitutional. Several court cases have determined that requiring drug testing for welfare recipients violates the Fourth Amendment.

The Fourth Amendment guarantees protection “against unreasonable searches and seizures.” Politifact and drugfree.org state that poor people are no more likely to use drugs than rich people. In fact, rich children are more likely to use drugs and alcohol than their poor counterparts. At a point when everybody is just as likely to use drugs, there’s no need to target the poor.

Morally, it’s wrong. Why test welfare recipients and not other recipients of government benefits?

As a college student, I’m more likely to use drugs or drink than the average welfare recipient. Did I get drug tested to receive student loans? No. Are there any people arguing that the government is subsidizing college students’ drug/alcohol issues? No.

There is a war on the poor and it needs to stop. Being poor isn’t a crime, and all poor people are not criminals.

If supporters think food stamp recipients deserve to be drug tested to eat, but I don’t need to be tested to receive student loans, they need to reevaluate why they think that way.

Additionally, it’s not prudent financially. Let’s look at some states that have implemented testing: Missouri, Oklahoma, Utah, Kansas, Mississippi, Tennessee and Arizona.

Combined, these states spent more than $837,800 to test 216,744 individuals. Only 427 individuals tested positive for drug use. That’s almost $2,000 spent per positive test. The facts speak for themselves — these tests are a waste of money.

Logically, it’s ineffective. All tests implemented thus far use urine to test, so that’s our metric to see how long drugs stay in one’s system. Alcohol is gone in three to five days, cannabis in seven to 30, amphetamines in one to three, cocaine and heroin in three to four and meth in three to six.

Unless tests were done randomly, which would even further violate the Fourth Amendment, anyone who is actually trying to abuse the system would just need to be clean for a week before their test to pass. This means that even if all these people used drugs, they could easily fool the test.

Drug testing welfare recipients is legally, morally, financially and logically a bad decision.