Another State Might Adopt Foolish Drug Testing Laws for Welfare

March 27th 2015

Tennessee has an infamously wasteful drug testing requirement for people receiving public benefits, and Gov. Scott Walker has a proposal for a similar regime in Wisconsin.

Now, Arkansas might be joining them.

An Arkansas House Committee advanced a bill that, if enacted into law, would require drug tests for people applying for "job-training benefits and other family aid," according to the Associated Press. The AP also reports that the program would cost $2 million.

The problem with required drug testing? It's a waste of money. Contrary to what politicians will tell you, there is no epidemic of welfare recipients using hard drugs. In fact, statistics show that welfare recipients are less likely than the rest of us to use drugs. So far, the testing bears this out. In Tennessee, out of the 16,107 people who applied for public benefits and were tested, just 37 have tested positive for drugs, as of last month.

Even worse, drug testing perpetuates the ugly notion that poor people cannot be trusted and should always be suspected of criminal wrongdoing. While all kinds of people accept government money, from corporations taking subsidies to students receiving scholarships, these laws only seem to target poor people. The result is that attempts by politicians to shame poverty in an effort to score political points ends up undermining efforts to solve serious problems facing the poor, such as wage stagnation, the low minimum wage, and joblessness.

Regardless of the facts, states continue to enact drug testing requirements. Right now, 12 states currently have some sort of drug testing on the books.

For more on the folly of state-mandated drug testing, check out this video:

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