Should people receiving, or looking to receive, welfare benefits be tested for drug use?
| This is only a rough draft of an argument paper I am writing for my college Writing class, but all comments are welcome.
Urinalysis For People Looking To Obtain Government Benefits
With the lack of secured jobs and rising cost of food nationwide, many Americans are relying on government welfare benefits such as SNAP, TANIF, WIC, and even unemployment checks. Unfortunately, for the many in need, the benefits they do receive are barely enough to maintain a healthy and nutritious diet. In my opinion, the benefits that people truly in need receive could be greater if the people who are not in need of these benefits were to be removed from the welfare programs. The means to achieve this, which many states (16 to date) have been pushing to adopt is drug testing through urinalysis for those seeking benefits, and for those who currently receive assistance.
Florida is a recent state to adopt the practice of urinalysis drug testing for welfare recipients. In their initial wave of testing they had taken the urine of over 1,000 welfare clients. Of the over 1,000 tested only 20% had tested positive for drugs. The majority of the 20% had tested positive for marijuana. I believe that with the rise in states nationwide passing laws to legalize marijuana for medicinal and/or recreational use that a positive urinalysis for marijuana should not necessarily bar a client from receiving benefits. Though, each client showing positive for any drug should be considered on a case by case basis. A person prescribed an opiate pain medication, or licensed for medicinal marijuana, should not be considered for benefit termination due to a positive urinalysis for opiates and THC (a chemical found in marijuana).
I know three people that collect SNAP (food stamps) and Husky medical insurance issued by the State Department of Social Services. Two of them also collect SSI/SSDI benefits for mental disorders. These people are an example of benefit recipients who are abusing the welfare system, making it harder for those in need to collect a proper amount of benefits to survive. All three regularly sell their food stamps as a means to purchase drugs, and the two collecting SSI/SSDI use their disability cash benefits to support their drug habits. The SSI/SSDI collectors are on disability for mental health disorders, but neither of them seeks regular psychiatric care or takes medications for their disorders. It is even quite possible that any existing mental health disorder could have been caused as a result of drug use, as there are many people with mental health disorders induced from the use of drugs. The one not collecting SSI/SSDI works full-time under the table in order to continue collecting SNAP benefits, even though he earns more than the limit allowed for a benefit recipient.
Hardworking Americans pay taxes to support people who collect welfare benefits. These same tax payers may at any time be subjected to drug urinalysis in order to maintain their employment. Whether it’s pre- or post-employment, hiring companies have a right to drug test potential and current employees. So why not drug test the Americans who expect to live off the taxes of those hardworking men and women? The only people who would complain about pre-benefit drug screening, and drug screening for those currently receiving benefits, are probably those who collect benefits and use drugs. But the American tax payers have a right to know that their taxes are being used to support the needy for the right reasons; that their money isn’t lining the pockets of drug dealers.
People may complain about the cost of drug urinalysis, and they may complain that urinalysis is a violation of their Fourth Amendment rights, but those are not valid points of argument. If it is not unconstitutional to drug test the employed, then it should not be considered unconstitutional to drug test the unemployed seeking handouts from the employed. As far as the costs are concerned, places have been making the clients pay the $25-$35 testing fees, reimbursing them only if the tests come back negative. So by doing that the State would foot the bill for those testing negative. Drug testing clients will cost the State money possibly up in the millions per year. Even still, the costs paid to drug test welfare clients would be small compared to the money saved by removing clients who test positive for drug use.
Simply put, welfare benefits were created as a means to help those in need until they could support themselves without the need for help from benefits. A client who uses his benefits to purchase drugs is obviously not striving to get his life on track so that he no longer needs the benefits. If a person can purchase drugs to support their drug habit then they surely have enough money to purchase food without the need for government aid. Welfare is a temporary means of support for those in desperate need, not a career choice.