Drug testing welfare recipients is a controversial issue, to say the least.
The topic has reemerged in the news after West Virginia lawmakers voted Thursday, March 10, to require mandatory drug testing for certain welfare recipients, as reported by WSAZ.
If Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin signs the bill, West Virginia would become the 14th state in the country to require welfare recipients undergo drug testing.
Despite results suggesting that drug testing welfare recipients is largely a waste of time and resources, these types of proposals continue popping up across the country.
There are 19 more states currently considering this type of legislation, according to the Independent Journal.
Proponents of drug testing worry that people on public assistance will use taxpayer dollars to purchase illegal drugs. They say removing drug users from public assistance programs saves public money.
Opponents says drug testing is an expensive, ineffective way to reduce illegal drug use. They argue strictly punitive laws like this prevent people in need from receiving jobless benefits and do nothing to offer help through drug counseling.
A February 2015 report by Think Progress seems to support opponents’ arguments.
The report found seven states with these type of drug testing programs — Arizona, Kansas, Mississippi, Missouri, Oklahoma, Tennessee, and Utah — are spending hundreds of thousands of dollars “to ferret out very few drug users.”
The statistics show that applicants actually test positive at a lower rate than the drug use of the general population.
The national drug use rate is 9.4 percent. In these states, however, the rate of positive drug tests to total welfare applicants ranges from 0.002 percent to 8.3 percent, but all except one have a rate below 1 percent.
The majority of state drug testing proposals target recipients of the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) program, which approximately 3 million Americans benefit from. This is one of the federal programs that gives states some authority over applicants’ screening processes, as reported by the Independent Journal.