Welfare recipients aren’t drug abusers
Published: Wednesday, June 29, 2011
Updated: Wednesday, June 29, 2011 19:06
Starting Friday, welfare recipients will be subjected to a drug test before they can receive their money from the government. The welfare recipient would pay to take the test and if they pass they get a refund from the state, but if they fail they pay the charge and are ineligible for welfare.
On the surface, this seems reasonable enough. If poor people want a part of my hard-earned tax money, they need to prove it's not going to buy drugs, right? Although this seems logical, one only needs to dig a little deeper to see the holes in this flawed and irrational idea.
For one, the law is clearly unconstitutional. In 2000, a district court in Michigan found that "suspicionless drug testing" of welfare recipients ran squarely against the Fourth Amendment's unreasonable search and seizure clause, according to The Economist. They found that there is no good reason to do blanket drug testing on people simply because they are eligible for welfare. For this reason, the American Civil Liberties Union has filed a lawsuit against Gov. Rick Scott, for implementing a law which has clearly been deemed unconstitutional by other district courts.
Then there's the issue of causation. Scott said in an interview with CNN that, "Studies show that people that are on welfare are higher users of drugs than people not on welfare." This is great, except the numbers don't back him up. Research done by the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism found that there was no correlation between receiving welfare and drug abuse. In fact, according to a study done by researchers at Florida State University, only about 5 percent of welfare recipients in Florida tested positively for drugs in a urine test.
These are all semantics though; a quick look at the effects of this legislation shows where the real flaws lie. You see, according to the Florida Department of Children and Families, welfare recipients receive between $100 and $200 per person a month in a family that must claim less than $2,000 in total assets. These are people living in extreme poverty. To take away the last safety net of this fragile population will inevitably cause crime to soar. These are people that, if off welfare, will have to decide between living on the street or hustling to survive, and I think we all know what they're going to choose.
On top of this, these drug tests are terrible at catching the real epidemic drugs: crack, heroin and methamphetamine. According to drugdetection.net, cocaine shows up in urine up to 12 hours after use, heroin shows up for two days after use and methamphetamine leaves the system within one day. Marijuana, on the other hand, can stay in your system for up to one month after use. These drug tests don't catch hard-drug users. They simply catch people who smoke marijuana, a drug that is currently in legislation to be legalized on a national level. Furthermore, the drug tests do nothing to catch people with alcohol problems, which costs more and is significantly more harmful to the population than many of the drugs listed above. If this legislation was meant to curb drug abuse, it fails.
In fact, if the legislators behind this proposal did their homework, they'd find this idea was already attempted back in 1998, and failed miserably. According to the Orlando Sentinel, it was tried in Jacksonville and cost taxpayers $2.7 million, and a mere 3.8 percent failed the drug tests. The plan was scrapped within 18 months.
Like most of these "small government" plans, the idea seems great on the surface but evaporates like the mirage it is upon closer look. If the governor and his congressional cronies really want to cut costs, this isn't the way to do it. This legislation is good for one thing — pandering to the conservative base, all the while leaving the poor, the tax payers and the Constitution in its wake. This bill is bad for everyone.