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. “Further, there is a dearth of evidence indicating that the majority of marijuana consumers are anything but responsible, hard-working Americans.”
    This statement needs to be restated or edited. As it stands, it sounds like we are NOT responsible, hard-working Americans. Either the ‘anything but’ needs to be deleted, or a ‘not’ should be added between ‘are’ and ‘anything.’

  2. Any elected official that supports this legislation should also be subjected to random drug tests and physicals to make sure they are fit to serve. Their staff members should also be subjected to any law they pass. This is very typical of them to impose this type of scrutiny to those they represent but would not be tested them selves or anyone that works for them. Hypocrites!!! What about a persons constitutional right to privacy?

  3. What is the rationale for this? If you have a drug problem (which mmj users do not) you don’t deserve to eat?

  4. This is so beyond belief. Oregon offers a discounted OMMP rate to those on assistance, as it should be for medications.At some point there must be a concession on the medicinal value of Cannabis on a personal level among those who propose such legislation.How to accomplish this? We are in a culture war and the opposing side has the high ground and the armies. On our side, we have truth, necessity and science. Historically we hold a losing hand until we gain the hearts and minds of the opposition. This seems to be occurring at it’s own pace, yet still occurring. Organizations like LEAP are a way into the glazed mindset we face.
    But back to the seeming conflict of interest of one side of Gov wanting to drug test for cannabis and punish for it despite State Law and another branch offering a discounted rate for the right to use Cannabis to those in line for the very testing to take them from the assistance which qualifies their discount.
    I know, my head is spinning just writing it down.
    Perhaps it is time for a COMPREHENSIVE law which provide the defenses to medical users across the board from employment to assistance.

  5. I’m not in favor of this drug testing crap for ANYONE, except what is between a patient and a doctor, but if this is unconsitituional for people living off the taxes of those that work, why the hell isn’t drug testing workers unconstituional?!?

  6. I agree with Sara (#4). That statement desperately needs editing/revising.
    Everyone, please do your part and contact Oregon officials! Many single parents (and their children) will suffer if this becomes law. Not to mention the taxpayers’ pockets.
    [Paul Armentano responds: The sentence is question has been revised.]

  7. Drug testing to uncover drug abuse? What do they consider abuse? Any amount wether its one joint a month or a week or a day? Its all the same to them no matter how much or how little you use? Its all abuse? Its almost laughable if wasn’t so pathetic.

  8. I agree that drug testing public assistance recipients is wrong. I do have to point out a slight error in the above article, however:
    The Oregon bill specifically exempts medical marijuana patients; a patient will NOT be prevented from benefits for using their legal marijuana under the OMMA. (And that is the ONLY thing “good” I have to say about this bill….)
    Here is the info:
    The testing is mandated here in Senate Bill 538:
    SECTION 2. { + (1) The Department of Human Services shall adopt rules that require adult applicants for and recipients of public assistance to undergo testing for substances of abuse as defined in ORS 438.010.
    So if we go to ORS 438.010, to see how this testing for substances of abuse is “defined”:
    (20) “Substances of abuse” means ethanol and controlled substances, except those used as allowed by law and as defined in ORS chapter 475 or as used in ORS 689.005.
    ORS chapter 475 includes the OMMA.
    Medical marijuana patients will NOT be denied benefits due to their use of marijuana. However, they WILL be drug tested, because they are under the DHS (OHA now) and that is one of the categories included in the definition of public assistance under Oregon law. It is presumed that they will be tested for *other* drugs…
    However, there are still plenty of reasons to call your representative and insist that they NOT support this bill. The costs alone are astronomical (without even considering the constitutional questions) – the number of people that would be required to submit to testing is easily 200,000 (and could be as high as 500,000 – although I am presuming that most of the categories with extremely large numbers are primarily children, so I went with a lower stat that is certainly all adults: the unemployed…206,000 people). Presuming that the 200,000 unemployed were subject to just TWO tests per year (the law requires every six months) – the total cost is upwards of 16 million dollars (200,000 people x $40 per test = 8 million dollars per test x 2 times per year = 16 million dollars).
    16 million dollars is bad enough. But what most won’t realize until later is that most of those unemployed are on additional programs (Oregon Health Plan, food stamps (SNAP), educational grants, JOBS program, free and reduced lunch for their children, etc). The bill is worded in such a way that a single person will almost certainly be required to take 2 tests per year PER PROGRAM. So a person on unemployment who is a participant in the JOBS program and gets food stamps would be in three programs, and would have to take 2 tests annually PER PROGRAM, for a total of 6 tests per year. Nearly everyone who is in ONE public assistance program is in OTHER programs as well. And the bill makes passing a drug test a “condition of eligibility for public assistance.” Anyone who has dealt with any sort of public assistance knows that each program qualifies you independently…
    At a time when the nation is facing massive budget shortfalls and program cuts – this hardly seems like a time to introduce such a high cost burden on the state (with the HIGH probability of constitutional litigation as well!) particularly after reviewing the results of Michigan’s failed attempt at implementing such a program (only 10% of public assistance recipients in Michigan tested positive, and only 3% tested positive for “hard drugs” like cocaine and meth)
    I wrote two articles on this in mid January addressing my perspective – because this particular issue REALLY bothers me:
    This one addresses the more “legal” aspects:
    And this one addresses the more personal/human aspects:

  9. “I’m not in favor of this drug testing crap for ANYONE, except what is between a patient and a doctor, but if this is unconsitituional for people living off the taxes of those that work, why the hell isn’t drug testing workers unconstituional?!?”
    Thats how I feel.

  10. A nationwide attack upon POOR cannabis users is underway by prohibitionists. The country bails out billionaire bankers making a million dollars a year bonuses without a single drug test given. I mean, what the hell! More and more EMPLOYED people are required to have drug tests too. Drug tests are nothing more than targetted slavery by a certain class of prohibitionists against everyone else. The CONSTITUTION does not require a drug test to be a citizen, and a citizen should not be required to “pass” a drug test to receive government services. ENOUGH!!!

  11. Obligatory drug tests are a violation of your US CONSTITUTION, AMEND. IV right to be free of warrantless searches without probable cause. Getting welfare is NOT probable cause for a drug test. Nothing is!!!!

  12. I think it should be unconstitutional for anyone to be drug tested for a job or anything else besides parole or probation. It DOES subject people to unreasonable search without a cause. Pre-employment screening needs to be done away with and then people who are getting screened before they get a job will not be bitching that they have to be screened but the welfare recipients don’t. That’s how all this got started was from people who have job bitching about having to have a drug screening and for a job. All of it should be done away with. The other thing is to make it a law that they can not screen for cannabis in any way shape or form. Just take the cannabis out. Something has to be done because I don’t have the rest of my life to be going at this like this. Within’ five years these laws have to change. It’s getting really f-ing old now.

  13. Aren’t all government workers also on “public assistance”?
    Where does the money to pay for those who arrest, prosecutee and jail us come from?
    Is THAT money voluntarily given or is it taken?
    Think about it.

  14. Response to #13:
    The threat of a Urinalysis test means that welfare recipients seeking inebriation will turn to alcohol instead of safer, non-toxic and non-addictive cannabis, because alcohol is only detectable for about 24 hours. Other substances that a welfare recipient might choose in order to elude a urinalysis test, instead of easily detected cannabis, include crystal meth and crack.
    However, the danger of making such an argument is that the other side will respond, “We need a better test,” and then they will want to spend millions of taxpayer dollars devising a better test, which will be even more expensive to administer.
    I think the point of opposing urinalysis is that in the first place, cannabis is not destructive, but can be therapeutic. In the second place, asking someone to urinate in a cup, possibly even under direct supervision, is an invasion of privacy.

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  16. I don’t see why people on welfare or unemployment should not have to be subjected to random drug tests like many of us do at work, even the military drug tests randomly.
    See, I personally have known people that are unemployed, collecting welfare and unemployment, meanwhile they’re getting high and hanging out with friends all hours of the night, I am either in bed or working for a living. I know there are more than a few people out there in the same boat.
    [Editor’s note: The clear distinction between employment/military drug testing and testing welfare recipients is that those seeking employment choose to be tested, whereas citizens do not generally choose to be in poverty.
    Ideally, citizens should resist government financial support when ever possible because of the clear social engineering and manipulation the government employs when providing funding.
    Want more choices in life? Then one better work hard or hope not to be receiving government funding, because, then, the government starts making the fundamental calls about personal choices and behaviors.]

  17. Apart from ignorant beliefs or government beliefs, Marijuana is not dangerous. It can and does get used in a fassion that is quite intellectual. The drug Marijuana is far more beneficial then dangerous, if dangerous whatsoever marijuana’s dangers lie in over eating and having too good of a time. If all this is so, you may ask, “Then why is it illigal?”. My good friend let me answer that for you. The real reasons marijuana is not legal are below.
    Reason 1: It is not taxed
    Alcohol has been and is knowingly worse for you and has no real medical uses, Marijuana on the other hand is not taxed and is supposobly “dangerous”. It is a natural plant. Marijuana has many medical uses and when your not using it medically you can also use it intellectually. I assure you all my written articles are inspired from marijuana use and are written under while i am “high”. The video below explains further about the American Drug War.
    Reason 2: Making Money
    The government makes a huge amount of money on marijuana. The list below shows a great number of ways the government makes money on marijuana.
    -Selling Marijuana (Both Legal and illigal)
    -Fines and fees for users of Marijuana
    -Allowing marijuana “criminals” to be put into privitised jails
    -Redistrubuting Confiscated Marijuana
    The video below describes a little more in depth about America’s “drug war”
    Reason 3: “It’s Dangerous”
    The above video is from the movie, “Reefers Madness” an edjucational movie by the government made in the 1930’s. It states Marijuana is more dangerous then heroine. Of course all of know this is obviously true. But consider the fact the government has only gotten more corrupt since the 1930’s, and that Marijuana is still today scheduled as a class 1 drug because of it’s dagerous and addictive properties. Of course all of this is lies, try spending some time on google and read some things. Learn people and stop allowing the government to feed us lies.
    As Martin Luther King Jr. would say.
    “He who passively accepts evil is as much involved in it as he who helps to perpetrate it. He who accepts evil without protesting against it is really cooperating with it.”

  18. I think I understand the bottom line here. Do all the drugs you want except for marijuana! I’m talking heroin, LSD, cocaine, or any of the hundred of dangerous legal drugs. Just make sure you are clean for 3 to 4 days before you get tested.
    Is that completely crazy? I’ll answer that – YES!
    Good grief! The mentality that keeps marijuana (cannabis to those of us more enlightened) is stupid beyond belief!

  19. Why then does the propagannda remain accepted by the Law?”This question should be repeatedly asked until we get an answer. This propagannda for prohibition of Cannabis is harmful to the welfare of our society and Nation.It is destructive to the relationship between citizens and law enforcement. The behavior of the government on this issue “shock the sense of fair
    play.” as stated in Title 42 1963 Civil Rights Act.
    “If the legislator clearly misinterprets a constitutional provision, the frequent repetition of the wrong will not create a right.” Amos vs Mosley, 74 Fla. 555; 77 So. 619.

  20. @ editor – Ok, people don’t normally choose poverty but people can choose to not do drugs just like I do in order to make a living. Weed is a luxury, not a necessity. Now if it is for medicinal purposes, it’s fine, but only under that exception.
    Now, I understand we’re all here with a common goal, to legalize marijuana; but the fact of the matter is that it is currently illegal and there are people that are taking advantage of the welfare system.
    [Editor’s note: Collective punishment is wrong no matter what the government’s excuse. Drug testing is as useful and rational as testing people to determine if they’re witches or warlocks.]

  21. It seems to me to be absolute insanity for any State to make use of a drug testing regimen that tests for long lasting inert metabolites of cannabis instead of testing for active THC in the bloodstream — doubly so in States that have State-legal MMJ programs. Of course, I am speaking from a pro re-legalization of cannabis POV. No doubt that the prohibitionists and anti-drug “warriors” are perfectly happy with these drug tests.
    I am wondering why there hasn’t already been a class-action lawsuit against the States & Fed that use these drug tests, as well as against the manufacturers of these tests. Someone is making a huge pile of cash for making and deploying these tests, as well as on the flip-side legalist enforcement aspects.
    If the Oregon legislature insists upon continuing with this charade, then how about enforcing a regular drug testing regime for all public workers, LEOs, and the legislature itself? Or for every Federal public worker, Federal LEOs, and every member of Congress? (I have some serious doubts about our USA Congress — they have to be on “something” beyond merely a “power trip”.)
    And just to keep it real for all of our public employees, lets withhold paychecks and medical benefits from those found to be in violation.
    OR, we could just reject the entire flawed drug testing regimen in favor of more modern methods of testing for incapacitation.

  22. While I agree that users should not be disqualified from receiving public assistance, I believe the larger problem is the existence of public assistance in itself.

  23. Cannabis medicine makes this mother of 3 capable of living a more normal life and providing for my family. Having received no child support in the 10 years I’ve been raising my kids, I have had no choice but to take in social services benefits from time to time to keep a roof over their heads and food in their bellies. Penalizing my family for my medical use of a drug that improves my condition and our overall quality of life is absurd at best. If they would like to test for methamphetamine or heroin…. well… I wouldn’t complain. No one’s lives are improved by the use of these drugs. Prescription and OTC drugs claim more lives each year than cannabis…. should we test for those too? Ridiculous.

  24. I Agree with Anna, this is pure BS! Also who the hell is going to pay for all this expensive testing? Me the tax payer; The people should have a say in this. We already pay enough in taxes to pay the unemployed so I do not want to pay more taxes to test someone to see if they use drugs. F(&# the Govt. they just want to have more control on the people. Stay out of our lives.

  25. Friends,
    I just created a petition entitled Petition for a National Debate between Cannabis Prohibitionist and Anti-Cannabis Probitionist, because I care deeply about this very important issue.
    I’m trying to collect 100 signatures, and I could really use your help.
    To read more about what I’m trying to do and to sign my petition, click here:
    It’ll just take a minute!
    Once you’re done, please ask your friends to sign the petition as well. Grassroots movements succeed because people like you are willing to spread the word!

  26. because its the easiest to trace because it stays in the system longer this is exactly what is wrong with drug testing because they use it to their benefit f the pot smoker!! led zeppelin and 2 joints over last weekend = loss of job no new job or better yet incarceration 3 weeks later… what a joke!! when will the stupidity end??

  27. As a 15+ year pot smoker, this is one that I don’t disagree with that much. I’m sorry. If you require welfare, you should be able to abstain for long enough to prove that you’re not going to be spending the government’s money on ganj. Weed costs money, and if you need welfare to sustain yourself, it’s time to re-evaluate your priorities. It would be great if we had some way of testing for OTHER unnecessary, trite expenses too. Unfortunately most asinine purchases don’t show up on a urine test… Make no mistake – I think medical users are a different story, and children should NEVER suffer because they have irresponsible parents. And people who don’t know about the test should get a second chance to quit and show they can use the money responsibly. But as someone who works, I CAN understand the rationale behind not wanting to fund welfare recipients’ chronic… It’s startling to me that I’m the only one.
    [Editor’s note: Does a positive drug screen prove that someone is spending money on purchasing cannabis? No. A drug test only detects past use, not whether or not someone paid for the product. Therefore adults who qualify for welfare payments and choose to receive them, can be punished simply because they consume cannabis, not necessarily for buying the product. Govt has not come up with that test yet… ]

  28. UNCONSTITUTIONAL!! What happened to our rights? Its a sad thing when drug testing corporations can get the side of state legislature in order to make millions of dollars by hopping on the “Refer Maddness” train. It just makes me sick, i dont know wheather to piss or go blind.

  29. I work 8 hours a day 5 days a week and i work hard every single day. No one should be taking advantage of unemployment or social services help, ect. But there are those who do, they know what they’re doin and they know its wrong but I still dont see how anyone could see this drug testing as a good thing. we have rights people and before too long we wont have any anymore.

  30. i hope it passes so that it will piss more people off..presently we have a society that wont stand up to this bs—hopefully this will get people pissed off. but then again, any rights u assume u have arent rights at all. u fail—populace! get used to more draconian practices when it comes to enforcement and loss of liberty. its over, get used to it. only a revolution will work….but people are too scared. game over. i lost and so did the rest.

  31. First they required drug tests for truckers and pilots and fired the ones that failed; I don’t operate heavy machinery, so I didn’t speak up.
    Then they required drug tests for all the employees and fired the ones that failed; everybody else had to do it, so I did and I didn’t speak up.
    Then they required drug tests for all the recipients of public assistance; us hard-working folks have to so I didn’t speak up.
    Now I’ve gotten caught on a random, can’t get a job, and can’t get public assistance; I’d speak up now, but no one can hear me from my refrigerator box over the sound of traffic and the steam grate.

  32. Amen Russ!!!! this whole deal is just atrocious and for lack of a better word,retarded.Furthermore @ those who argue that if you receive public assistance,you shouldn’t be using or spending money on cannabis,where I am from unemployment benefits are paid by your previous employer,and you have to have been employed for a minimum period of time,and also be unemployed for a maximum period after losing your job.As for the other benefits,such as food stamps and welfare,i can kind of see your point,however in the very rural area I live in,there are those who find every avenue possible for living entirely off public assistance,and then a good portion of those that recieve assistance actually DO work,and the vast majority of jobs around here are minimum wage or maybe a little more.So say you work your hands to the bone making minimum wage,and need a little help from food stamps or whatever to make ends meet from time to time,and the only non essential thing you buy is a $20 bag of weed to help you relax after a hard day of work,(which that $20 lasts about a week),you are saying that that qualifies you to be discriminated against or denied assistance?

  33. “Hell hath no fury like a woman scorned.”
    It has long been suggested that it is American women that will turn the tide of Cannabis prohibition. So! maybe it’s time – even long overdue – to be a “Mama Grizzly.” Mothers! – especially Genesist mothers – talkin’ to prohibs is like talkin’ to a two year old – terrible two’s – maybe more like a teen. Experience with that will give you direction.

  34. I don’t understand how people with med mj cards hold jobs. Seems all employees screen for drugs. Whats next testing people collecting soc. security? Its still a war on those who use for whatever reason.

  35. “Honor is a gift one gives one’s self.”
    We – seekers of the truth, invest in our honor. They – the followers of lies, have no honor to invest in. The only thing in this world we want to hear is the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth, so help us God.
    We “want to believe” everything someone or group of someones tells us, that’s our trusting nature [which is constantly being eroded by their lies], – but – once we’re told a lie, we regard that someone or group of someones as a liar, and we can never believe or trust them again – “Once burned, twice cautious.”
    Prohibitionists are liars, they lie to each other as if it were the gospel – but – to seekers of the truth, their words fall on deaf ears. What a “shame,” they have inflicted on honorable Americans. The problem is – they have no honor – [therefore] – they have no shame. However – the truth will set them free, and they can be a “recovering liar.”

  36. I don’t about this one, I hate the idea of any drug testing…..but if you have money to buy a bag of weed, or even money to buy booze, then why aren’t you spending it on your own family to buy food, instead of sucking on the government’s tit??I’ve supported NORML’s efforts financially and otherwise (spreading the word) for years, and I don’t take the position that they shouldn’t be tested…I am sick and tired of paying taxes for lazy free loaders. If you want to party, pay for it for yourself…..don’t bogart my tax money…I am sure this post will iritate, but on this issue if you want foodstamps, you need to check your priorities before buying a good bag’o kind….of course if you are a Medical patient using, they should be fully exempt from any testing……
    [Editor’s note: Does drug testing detect past use or past purchases? Answer: Only past use.
    The government spending tax dollars on ‘drug’ tests (they don’t test for booze and tobacco products…) that can’t measure how much money the person on welfare has spent on cannabis is an even greater waste of time and money.]

  37. 45 Poot – Genesis, Ventura, Ca. Colony
    Well said my brother – well said.
    The only thing I might add, if I may, is that talkin’ to prohibs is like pissin’ in the wind. No conscience – no honor. No conscience – no nothing. It has often amazed me – “why” – prohibs want to be in America. That’s not what America is about. Americans are all about truth and most of all – FREEDOM.

  38. what is it going to take to stop this nonsense, why should what a person does in private affect his life or job i am sick of this b.s. a human being should never have to prove his innocence when it comes to smoking weed . in ohio its 100 dollar fine if caught with weed if it is just a misdemeanor than why should a person lose his job or license for flunking a drug test we the people need to say enough is enough

  39. I would like to take this moment to mourn the passing, and memorialize, “Uncle Don,” one of the great Genesists, and American patriots of our time, from Butler, Ohio Colony, who was often quoted as saying:
    “Government epitomizes stupidity – in that THC is [as] legal as any drug [as evidenced by Merinol – but – that the whole plant material [minus THC being hemp] is illegal. Uncle Don said – it’s like saying – you [can] have the orange juice, but you [can’t] touch the orange. It’s governments non-competition clause.”
    God Bless Uncle Don’s Soul, and may he be at peace with his Creator.

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