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

  • by Allen St. Pierre, Former 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. Jbkorn02 says:

      Every day i look and more laws are being made every day and every day we lose more of our freedom. It doesnt give me much hope for any good thing on the ballots this year. Even if we vote for things the federal government will stop it.

    2. John Knight says:

      I like the idea myself and i smoke alot of weed, about an ounce of med grade each month, (a gram a day) and i have had 3 jobs that make ya piss in a cup. I have no problem sneaking in fresh piss for randoms (only one random ever) or pre employment. I like the idea that people who want to sign up for unemployment need to pass a piss test, that right there will help save alot of tax dollars that are spent on unemployment right now because mostly everyone is to stupid to figure out how to pass a drug test while stoned. Its going to keep the druggies (meth, crack, coke, extacy, and heroine junkies, not stoners…a stoner is not a druggie) out of taking advantage of the privilege they are given with unemployment. If your broke, hooked on drugs, homeless, or just fucking lazy and need to be on unemployment, the LAST fucking thing you need is to be doing any kind of drugs. If you give a druggie free money what the fuck do you think hes gonna spend it on,…DRUGS….i think its a great idea!

      [Editor’s note: OK…beyond sounding like a flaming hypocrite, is it just your apparent hatred of people you perceive to be poorer than you, or, do you not know how a social safety net like welfare works?

      Ever think that many of these recipients are folks who used to work before becoming unemployed and have paid years, or decades of state/federal taxes, FICA, Social Security, etc…?

      Why shouldn’t they be able to draw down social benefits without having to submit their excrement to the government for chemical analysis when other recipients of government money don’t have to go through such a clear indignity and exposure to bogus scientific tests, including elected policymakers and their staff; contractors; religious institutions who administer to the poor; sports club owners who get multi-million dollar stadiums subsidized by taxpayers, etc…?

      Can’t these recipients of billions annually in government money spend the loot on ‘drugs’ too? Why no drug tests for them?

      If you smoke pot, seek to beat your drug tests at work, but support the government now having pee police, you’re one hypocritical puppy.]

    3. This is completely insane. They inact these laws, never considering how much it will cost them. Duh, the whole country is broke. CA is also spending $$ on new technology to roadside test for THC. As we know this can stay in your system for some time. Another crazy law, which will cost a huge amount of money. Last in heard CA is also broke. If this country would WAKE UP and legalize mariquana and hemp. We could save ourselves. Apparently, our mostly inane legislaters would prefer to keep getting those big bucks from big Pharmacuticals. Which kill, unlike mariquana. Idiots.

    4. thehat says:

      As a strong supporter of legalization I actually agree with drug testing those for welfare and government compensation. If you can buy drugs, you should be able to afford to support yourself. Im not going to throw my tax dollars at you to feed your habit. I have felt this way since I was a youngin working at a grocery store. One day this lady comes in and buys tons of stuff with her food stamps. When her beer and cigarettes came up she pulls a HUGE wad of 100s and 50s out of her bra, peels off a 100, then yells at her kids saying “she can’t afford to buy them a candybar”. Fuck that, you abuse the system you should lose the system!

      [Editor’s note: OK…the food stamp wad-slinging from the bra woman, child-in-tow was also probably black and driving a Cadillac, right? Can you come up with a more vicious stereotype of a welfare recipient to try justify your bias?

      With this kind of flawed rationale, there is no reason why the millions of person who receives a student loan, Small Business Admin. loan, crop subsidies or GI bill benefits should not also join the welfare recipients to be subject to what would have to become a massive, multi-billion dollar pee police bureaucracy.

      NORML says no to suspicionless, warrantless, not-for-cause drug tests from the big bad government, and yes to personal responsibility and freedom!]

    5. Bob says:

      The government continues its war on the American people. In our elected officials eyes, people who use marijuana do not deserve to be treated as fellow human beings with the same rights as non-users. Of course the sames rules do not apply to to congress, hell they can’t even grasp the idea that insider trading should be illegal for congress as it is for citizens.

    6. Thinking Clearly says:

      Man. Voting is the only thing to stop it. Too many people are waking up. You got plenty of company.

    7. Jeff says:

      If this is the case, I think the people need to vote to make congress and all elected official have to take random drug test to get their pay checks, which is tax payer’s money. They use up more money and are responsible for all the wasted spending our government seems to do. Besides the fact that this whole drug testing that they want to do will cost more money than it will save. Just look at Florida drug testing people on welfare.

    8. Anonymous says:

      You claim 50 percent support for legalization and yet your only stategy is to write letters and emails to lawmakers who at best will only ignore them. Where can I get tickets to NORML’s 100th birthday bash. Only 60 more years away.

      [Editor’s note: Wrong on both counts.

      1) NORML and other cannabis law reform organizations do far more than ‘just’ lobby our elected policymakers at the state and federal level. NORML litigates in the appellate courts. NORML has over 225 chapters that work around the nation to educate and politically organize cannabis consumers and the general public. NORML convenes, sponsors and attends dozens of pro-cannabis law reform protests and rallies. NORML educates the public with one of the most popular webpages on the Net, as well as a popular daily podcast and 24/7 ‘radio’ network online. NORML holds the biggest and most informative conferences and seminars. The organization has been running pro-reform ads campaigns and projects since 1970. And it now has a network of almost 1.2 million opt-in supporters via social networking pages like FaceBook, Twitter, etc…

      2) Both NORML’s and New York Times statistics whiz Nate Silver’s estimates for when a super majority (60% support) for cannabis legalization is reached around 2021.

      If more and more cannabis consumers and other like-minded citizens keep working hard, the end of Cannabis Prohibition appears in sight after 75 years. Finally.]

    9. Thinking Clearly says:

      Let me get this correct. They are going to pay money to somebody for drug testing. Why don’t they save the money for unemployment benefits instead, or is that too simple?

    10. Thinking Clearly says:

      When a man loses his job he shouldn’t lose his rights.