Loading

First the States, Now Congress OKs Drug-Testing for Unemployment Benefits

  • by Allen St. Pierre, NORML Executive Director February 29, 2012

    By Kellen Russoniello, student, George Washington University Law Center and NORML legal intern

    [Update: A federal judge ruled on April 26, 2012 that Florida’s drug testing law for unemployment benefits is unconstitutional.]

    As several states are considering or implementing policies that require recipients of government benefits such as welfare to undergo drug tests, the federal government has shown approval for the same flawed rationale. Last week, President Obama signed into law an agreement reached by Congress which maintains the payroll tax cut and extends unemployment benefits, but also allows states to drug test people who seek unemployment benefits if they were fired from their previous job for using drugs or if they are seeking a job that would ordinarily require drug tests.

    The Middle Class Tax Relief and Job Creation Act of 2012, H.R. 3630, was signed on February 22, 2012. Section 2105 amends the Social Security Act by allowing states to drug test applicants for unemployment benefits and deny those benefits in the case of a positive result.

    What percentage of those applying would be forced to pee in a cup? Although the numbers are unclear, Republicans had cited a study claiming 84% of employers required new hires to pass a drug test. Initially, Republicans had pushed for drug testing all applicants, but this was opposed by Democrats. In order to extend the payroll tax cut and unemployment, however, Democrats caved on the issue of drug testing.

    A columnist for Time pointed out several flaws in this policy. First, a single failure of a drug test does not treat addiction or even determine if treatment is necessary. In fact, because marijuana can stay in the body’s system for extended periods of time, drug tests are likely to disqualify cannabis users even though it is one of the least addictive drugs. Second, people may shift their use to other drugs, such as K2 or Spice, which are more difficult to detect in a urine screen but may be more detrimental to the person’s health. Third, creating obstacles for the unemployed to get back on their feet may actually worsen drug use, as it fosters anger and resentment.

    Further arguments against this policy include that although the government estimates drug use among unemployed to be about twice that of the employed population, the rates of drug use among those applying for welfare benefits were found to be equal to the general population in Michigan when it tried to implement a drug test law, and much less than the general population in Florida. Not to mention, this type of policy is most likely unconstitutional.

    Hopefully states will come to their senses and not opt to implement this policy. If your state is one of the 23 states considering mandatory drug testing for welfare benefits, contact your legislators and tell them to oppose these unsound and unconstitutional policies.

    120 Responses to “First the States, Now Congress OKs Drug-Testing for Unemployment Benefits”

    1. Galileo Galilei says:

      One fact I find downright risible is the failure to test for nicotine. Folks addicted to tobacco spend spend 10 to 20 minutes 4 or 5 times a day feeding their addiction. This is a productivity drain that would not ordinarily be tolerated by any industry in the world.

      It’s all perfectly legal, though.

    2. Galileo Galilei says:

      @Douglas

      A coffee drinker is a druggie; or dint u no dat.

      If you don’t like it here as the changes come, take your own advice.

    3. frank b says:

      guilty until proven innocent yet again eh? WTF!

    4. Owen says:

      To Editor RE John Knight: That was a really good comeback!

      John Knight is right on 1 point though, but he worded it incorrectly: pot is in a different class than all other “drugs” and thus it should not be labeled as a “drug”. It’s fucking harmless. The whole drug testing process is aimed at pot smokers.

    5. Random says:

      I truly believe it is almost entirely just a lack of intelligence by policy makers. Sure these laws are probably made with good intentions, and almost logical-seeming thinking. I don’t believe there is an actual decent statistical difference in drug use, and as NORML editors said these are people who were once working. It’s also a substantial waste in money for such small, if any, benefit.

    6. BobKat says:

      Where can I find Congressional, Federal Gov’t employee and critical staff drug test results? I trust all members of the fedral gov’t, especially Congress, Pentagon elite, the Justice Dept. all submit to random drug testing. I would also figure since they are elected and or crucial to the security of American citizens that these results would be available to the public.

      Don’t you want to know if your representative is “drug-free”? That 5 star general with his fingers on the nuclear button?

      Drug testing the unemployed is a huge waste of tax-payer money. The unemployed for the most part did not cause their unemployment status. It’s the lawmakers that need to be screened… executives of gov’t entities. Wall St. CEO’s. Big Oil executives. Any active duty officer serving over-seas; they are responsible for overseeing subordinates, and creating a positive impression on foreigners.

      I would even consider a ban on alcohol use while holding public office. Seems fair and reasonable given current attitudes towards “mind-altering” substances.

      Least of all do we want a President who consumes alcohol in public or on national television. Portrays a very poor example to our youth!

    7. palemalemarcher says:

      It cost Florida $200,000 for 28 negatives. Just a heads up; Oswego County NY has a pilot program. What other nation on this planet ever entertains such schemes?! I pointed out to sen Shumer that Kevin Sabet is recorded as saying screening for relief is a bad idea in an E-mail. We should expect clear choice in November. And I assume that Dr. Paul voted against that, right?

    8. […] First the States, Now Congress OKs Drug-Testing for Unemployment Benefits By Kellen Russoniello, student, George Washington University Law Center and NORML legal intern As several states are considering or implementing policies that require recipients of government benefits such as welfare to undergo drug tests, the federal government has shown approval for the same flawed rationale. Last week, President Obama signed into law an agreement reached by Congress which maintains the payroll tax cut and extends unemployment benefits, but also allows states to drug test people who seek unemployment benefits if they were fired from their previous job for using drugs […] […]

    9. dbeall says:

      Any person that even thinks ‘substance testing’ is remotely ok…

      1. needs their head examined to see if they qualify to live in America.

      2. needs their values examined to see if they belong in the Human race.

      3. needs to be piss tested to see if they even know what it is.

      4. needs an IQ test to see if they score over 10 or maybe 20 points.

      5. needs to have a little sit-down-talk with Russ Belville for some basic education.

      ——
      The so-called lawmakers,, well, they don’t command any respect for probably 99% of the population as it is, without any talk of UN-constitutional substance testing.

      The so-called president lost all credibility the first time he lied to the people and the world. What did he lie about? pick a topic…..

      ———–
      If you call yourself an American..

      Where do you think the Patriots are?
      Who do you think the Patriots are?
      What do you think a Patriot is?

      Have you read the Constitution of the United States of America..
      I have a copy on my web site, if you can read.
      http://www.lakesidecanvas.com/constitution-united-states-america

    10. john williamson says:

      too much hypocrisy. i bet if marijuana was never illegal half of these people on wellfare would never have been on it and be productive, working citizens.

    Leave a Reply