The Student News Site of Northern Michigan University

The North Wind

The North Wind

The North Wind

Meet the Staff
Matthew Sarna
Business Manager

The North Wind Editorial Sessions
About us

The North Wind is an independent student publication serving the Northern Michigan University community. It is partially funded by the Student Activity Fee. The North Wind digital paper is published daily during the fall and winter semesters except on university holidays and during exam weeks. The North Wind Board of Directors is composed of representatives of the student body, faculty, administration and area media.

GOALS NEEDED — NMU has scored just five goals all season and with four of their losses coming in one score matches.
M Soccer: Offensive struggles lead to three straight losses
Lily GouinSeptember 29, 2023

Drug testing for welfare is unconstitutional

Guest Column by Brian Westrick

In trying economic times, it becomes the main focus of the people to find wasteful government spending and attempt to figure out ways to cut it. One such method that has gotten enormous publicity is to find ways to cut welfare to those who are deemed unworthy.

The most prominent suggestion is mandatory drug testing for residents on welfare and cutting welfare to those who are unable to pass. This law passed under Florida Governor Rick Scott in June, and has since been in effect.

Americans should be outraged at this egregious violation of constitutional rights, as well as the total lack of foresight in this move.

Story continues below advertisement

In 1997, the state of Michigan attempted to institute a new policy that required welfare recipients to be subject to random drug tests, with their welfare eligibility hanging in the balance. The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) filed a case against the state of Michigan in representation of all welfare residents.

Seven years later, the case was finally settled in favor of the ACLU. In accordance with our rights as citizens, the state may only drug test those citizens for which there is reasonable suspicion to believe that drug use is occurring. The courts found that being poor and needing government assistance was not reason enough to suspect someone of drug use.

“We’re very pleased that the State now recognizes that being poor is not a crime,” said Kary Moss of the ACLU, immediately following this ruling.

Judge Victoria Roberts said, in a 2000 injunction that to test welfare recipients simply because they are poor, “would be dangerously at odds with the tenets of our democracy.”

In reality, the only thing that welfare recipients have in common is that they are not well off economically. To force them to submit to an investigation sends the implication that the state or nation finds it a crime to be poor, or that poor people are more likely to be drug users.

This implies that there is some sort of significant connection between income generated and drug usage.

The Michigan case found that the welfare recipients who tested positive were in consistent ratio with the non-welfare-receiving population, roughly 10 percent and only three percent tested positive for any drug other than marijuana.

Furthermore, the typical method of testing is urinalysis, which is mostly used as a barometer for marijuana use. This flies in the face of the common rhetoric of American citizens who believe that the taxpayers should not be responsible for “subsidizing a drug addiction,” given that the most common tests only find a nonaddictive drug. They also fail to find alcohol abuse, which is the most common form of drug abuse.

The common perception is that forcing welfare recipients to submit to testing would ultimately force them to quit drugs, and move them off welfare.

This idea was squashed by an Alabama study in 1999 that found focused job training programs were far more effective than any attempt to end drug abuse by the minuscule amount of the welfare recipients who do abuse drugs.

Florida’s law requires that its welfare recipients get a clinical drug test at an average cost of at least $42, not including many factors which will drive the cost up more.

This cost will be refunded through tax dollars if the welfare recipient passes. Objectively, this is a horrendous idea, as an August investigation by WFTV in a district in Central Florida found that of the sample of 40 recipients that were tested, only two were found positive.

And one of them was suspected to be a false positive, meaning that there is significant reason to believe that the positive result of the test was returned due to clerical error. The total cost for these tests refunded by the state came to $1,140.

Assuming that the disputed test was a true positive, the money saved by not paying out to these people totals a savings of $240 per month. This number is raw and will certainly shift if and when more citizens apply for the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families program.

It also fails to account for the massive one-time cost, subsidized by taxpayers, for the state of Florida to defend the law in court, where it will certainly be challenged.

The lesson we’re learning from Governor Scott, and all those who support his policy, is that our freedom and fourth amendment rights can be bought from us, or in some cases, we might even pay them to take our rights away from us.

More to Discover