Royal Purple Staff Opinion
Nov. 17, 2015
Gov. Scott Walker recently approved an administrative rule that will allow the state to drug test people who receive public benefits.
The rule took effect on Nov. 9 and has brought our state one step closer to requiring welfare applicants to take a drug test before receiving benefits such as food stamps, unemployment and job training.
The administrative rule requires applicants for state-run job training programs to fill out a questionnaire that determines if the applicant is likely to be a drug abuser. Based on the applicants’ answers, they could be requried to take a drug test.
Applicants who fail the test will be required to enroll in state-funded drug treatment programs to remain eligible for job training.
Walker says the screenings will “strengthen” Wisconsin’s workforce. He says the entitlement reforms will help more people find jobs, so they can move from “government dependence” to “true independence.” The theory is that by being tough on drugs, we’ll make the population safer and save the state some cash too.
It sounds like a pretty good idea, right? You don’t want your hard-earned tax dollars going to stoner Steve across the street who has no job, survives on an unemployment check and listens to “Dark Side of the Moon” every day, do you?
Neither do we.
The problem with the stoner Steve example is there’s no data that actually points to a lot of stoner Steves being out there, mooching off of our tax dollars. In fact, drug use among welfare recipients is around two percent, whereas drug use among the general population hovers around 9.4 percent, according to the National Survey on Drug Use and Health.
Apparently, drugs are expensive, and poor people have trouble affording them. Who would’ve thought?
Yet, Walker seems intent on making it harder for the poor to receive the help they need, or perhaps he’s just trying to save the state money.
But Wisconsin is not the first state to implement such legislation. In 2013, Utah spent $30,000 to test its welfare recipients and caught … hold your breath … a whopping 12 drug users, according to state figures. In 2014, Tennessee also began a drug testing program, and they busted just one person out of more than 800 tested. That one guy out of 800 must feel like quite the loser.
Despite the numbers pointing to low drug use among welfare recipients, Republican states keep proposing the same legislation. Something’s not adding up.
While states waste money on drug tests that turn up minimal results, the drug testing industry is making a fortune. The Drug and Alcohol Testing Industry Association actually employs lobbyists to try to prevent the decriminalization of marijuana and expand drug testing. It’s a lucrative business to say the least.
After all, a drug test is more likely to detect marijuana than cocaine.
The poor are further humiliated and stigmatized by being forced to urinate in a cup, while the drug testing industry lines its pockets with our tax dollars. Aren’t you glad your money went to the drug testing industry instead of stoner Steve?
While it sounds like a good idea on paper, drug testing welfare recipients just isn’t a viable or practical undertaking. There’s no data that points to high drug use amongst people who receive public benefits. All it would do is further alienate and stigmatize the poor population while wasting tax dollars.
If Gov. Walker is so set on drug testing the poor, perhaps he and the rest of our representatives should submit to drug screenings, as their salaries are also paid by our tax dollars.