Marijuana Testing State Services Applicants: It’s Just Wrong!

[The following blog post was submitted to the NORML Women’s Alliance by Anna Diaz.  NORML’s commentary appears in italics below.]

Urinalysis, the most common form of non-impairment drug testing, unfairly targets marijuana consumers because it screens for the presence of inert byproducts that may be detectable for days, weeks, or even months in former users. This is a discriminatory policy that sanctions individuals who may have consumed cannabis at some previous, unspecified point in time, while most other forms of illicit substance use to go undetected. Further, most marijuana consumers are responsible, hard-working Americans.  NORML believes that it is arbitrary and counterproductive to single these people out for punishment simply because they fail a urine screen.

By: Anna Diaz

NORML Women’s Alliance Steering Committee

Oregon NORML, Co-Founder

I am a Latina, a forty-year cannabis consumer, a medical cannabis patient and a single mother who has had to use public assistance more than once.  In 2011, Oregon and three other states have introduced bills that would require drug testing for people receiving public assistance.  I am writing to present my unique perspective on this issue, and why individuals should oppose any type of legislation that would require drug testing for all applicants looking to receive state services such as food stamps or unemployment benefits.

Many groups oppose this type of legislation including the ACLU, various associations of health professionals and, not surprisingly, organizations that assist women and children in need.  One in five Oregonians receive state services.  Currently, 79% of Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits – formerly food stamps — in Oregon are awarded to households with minor children.  65% of the children receiving those benefits live in single parent households.  Most of these single parents are women.

The ACLU position states, “Drug testing welfare recipients as a condition of eligibility is a policy that is scientifically, fiscally, and constitutionally unsound.”

Michigan is the only state to attempt to impose drug testing of welfare recipients – a policy that was struck down as unconstitutional in 2003. The ACLU challenged the mandatory drug-testing program as unconstitutional, arguing that drug testing of welfare recipients violates the Fourth Amendment’s protection against unreasonable searches. The case, Marchwinski v. Howard, concluded when the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit upheld a lower court’s decision striking down the policy as unconstitutional.

Further, studies show that welfare recipients are no more likely to use drugs than the rest of the population.  70% of illicit drug users are employed.  The ACLU also cites research showing that drug testing is an expensive and ineffective way to uncover drug abuse.

OR NORML’s Madeline Martinez (with award) and Anna Diaz with NORML founder Keith Stroup, Esq.

This is an expense our state cannot afford under any circumstances.  The average cost for drug testing in Oregon is $44.00 a person.  According to the Oregon Department of Human Services, there were 361,300 households (682,000 people) receiving SNAP benefits in February 2010.   The caseload is expected to increase until it peaks at 398,000 cases (760,000 people) in April 2011.  That is a 10 percent increase from February 2010.  Even if only one test were administered per household, the cost of drug testing would be roughly $17 million dollars.

While there are several reasons to oppose this type of legislation in all four states, there is one reason that is very unique to Oregon. Oregon is the only state that has a medical marijuana program.  The problem is that the Oregon Medical Marijuana Act does not protect patients who also receive public assistance.  Should this bill pass, many of us would be ineligible for services just because we are legally using our medicine.

The ACLU is right. Drug testing welfare recipients as a condition of eligibility is unsound on all levels for everyone, including taxpayers.  It discriminates against medical cannabis patients, is a waste of money, and will hurt single parent households, which in turn, hurts our children.

Please send a message to the Oregon Legislature and ask them to oppose any type of drug testing legislation.  It only takes a few minutes, and you can do it right now.  Here is an example of what you can say to get you started:

“Please oppose any legislation that incorporates drug testing as a part of the law.  Our state cannot afford the expense, and these bills discriminate against disabled medical marijuana patients.”

57 thoughts

  1. They should drug test people who receive state benefits. If people have money to spend on bud or drugs then I should not have to pay for their shit just so that they can smoke bud or something. I’m all for this legislation.
    [Editor’s note: Drug testing does not detect if a welfare recipient is buying drugs with taxpayer dollars…supporting the govt drug testing welfare recipients is an even greater waste of public resources.]

  2. Sounds like a good law to me…nobody is saying you can’t use you just can’t use and take taxpayer money.
    Keep smoking and get a job or stop and stay on assistance. It’s the welfare recipients who also use that make it so difficult for those of us who use and can still take care of ourselves and our family.
    Stop being the poster child for those who oppose legalization. You make our fight harder
    [Editor’s note: Why cede government control over one’s body at cannabis if a citizen, who may well have paid a lifetime into social security/FICA/state taxes, with drug testing (which is not even close to 100% accurate)? Do you want more government employees and agencies to test for possible pleasures like alcohol? Tobacco? Coffee? Chocolate? Spending taxpayer dollars on chocolate..the outrage! How about if these folks choose to spend their money on unhealthy foods? Are you OK with testing them for that too? Maybe government agencies for monitoring if taxpayer money is used to dine out at a fancy restaurant.
    Where does denying pleasure (not necessarily chronic addiction…) end? Or, is just ‘illegal’ drugs OK?
    What’s worse, hating welfare recipients or empowering the government into examining citizen’s excrement using even more tax dollars?]

  3. Study the sentence carefully. Dearth of evidence=no evidence;lack of evidence. Anything but goes well with dearth. It is a positive statement. Please don’t fall into the stereotype given about those who use marijuana. Remember math? negative times negative produces a positive. Same with grammar. It is okay to use a double negative, just remember that it turns the meaning of the sentence 180 degrees. Huh? In other words, the writer is saying good things about cannibis users.

  4. @ Micheal, Hey I was on public assistance for 2 years, (which I was required to pay back and did with back child support) and I NEVER bought any weed. I received $292 per month to support myself and 2 children. *(which is still the current amount for 3 people here) I could barely afford toilet paper much less weed! BUT I did get high from time to time with a little help from my friends…so should I have not be allowed to keep a roof over my kids heads, and food in their stomachs? I most certainly wasn’t out buying “bud”. That’s just crazy. That is the stigma that poor welfare women have to contend with, now along with this drug testing crap. I am a responsible hard working homeowner. Living in rural Missouri, where this unfair unconstitutional law will likely pass. No longer in the system, but it is wrong, drug testing is wrong for any reason, except if one is caught up in the legal system. I wrote my senator, have to fight even if it’s in vain.

  5. My ex-husband owes me over $25,000 in back child support, and the law finally caught up with him. He’s paying the current plus $100, which will only catch him up $6,000 in the 5 years probation he received. I know he is not only smoking weed, ( which of course I haven’t a problem with), but buying to the tune of if it’s the same as when we were together, about $300 monthly. (that I do have a problem with) I could tell his probation officer this but because I don’t want to incriminate the Noble Weed, I will not. But for years he didn’t send his kids a dime, and even the last year he lived here didn’t support them, but did his head. Just wrong. But just as wrong that he spent $150 monthly on cigs, and beer too.

  6. @nina. you’re right. neither weed, cig or beer is the problem here. your ex-husband is a bum.
    p/s – this editor comes out with some very well written replies.

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