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

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 thoughts

  1. WHAT??? Is the novel ‘1984’ a field manual for the feds??? This is starting to get a little too creepy. We need to reach the voters. Even if they are of the 50% that DON’T favor legalization they should be very, very concerned (and I would think they would want to know) that this so-called “government” so easily picks and chooses which of our RIGHTS will be ripped from us whether we like it or not.

  2. The USA is the only nation I know of that uses pre-employment screening. This is all unconstitutional. Why not saliva testing? That is the most single standard solution out there.

  3. Hey we could always work for Anheuser-Busch. They want a pee test AND a hair test to sell their crappy product that kills on average, 75,000 people a year. Drink up!

  4. I agree pee tests in general are unconstitutional, but so is people getting free money. Welfare only contributes to crime, including the drug war.

  5. @ getridofwelfare. First of all, Unemployment ISN’T welfare. You work and pay into the unemployment fund and then, when you are actually unemployed it is supposed to allow you to keep a roof over your head and food on your table while you look for another job. That is why it is called unemployment INSURANCE. Secondly, it isn’t welfare that contributes towards crime. It is POVERTY. Welfare allows folks with little or nothing to keep food on their table. Poverty fosters crime. NOT Welfare.

  6. Actually unemployment benefits became welfare when they extended the length multiple times. And there is no one ‘looking for another job’ when they let you stay unemployed for Over 52 weeks. Welfare contributes to crime by allowing people who don’t want to work abuse the system. I’m not sure what this ‘unemployment insurance’ is coming from. That is TAX PAYER’S DOLLARS. People on welfare should have to piss, simple as that. If you don’t want to piss, get off welfare with the rest of us hard working folks.

    [Editor’s note: This ‘let’s drug test the citizen’ scheme will only make sense if ALL recipients of government-funded programs also have to go through an excrement analysis. Recipients like ALL government workers, all college students with loans, all small business administration loans recipients…and for this matter all private companies that in turn want to do business with the feds through the General Services Administration (ie, hotels, airlines, computer companies, etc…).

    Insisting on drug testing for welfare is both too narrow in scope and bias to be either effective or cost efficient.

    Just say no to ALL suspicionless, warrantless, baseless and scientifically bogus government-mandated drug testing for recipients of unemployment benefits, no matter what your rationale to the contrary.]

  7. I think the drug testing keeps us arguing with each other while they continue to slip us the goose. This is America. WTF is this drug testing horse hockey? People have been productive and supporting this society just fine for years without this irrelevant, harmful, intrusion on liberty and privacy. American workers are being treated like disposable commodities. My Dad used to say “if everyone else jumps off the bridge does that mean you should too?”. Just because you have to be drug tested for any reason does not make it ok. This is population control by Govenment not private industry anymore. Unless you are a junkie and need help, or a medical patient that needs his medication level checked (that’s the original selling point for drug testing)no one should have to go through it in a free society. Period. Not even the holier than thou’s.

  8. I say ban drug testing. Period. It is an assault against Liberty. Against you. Against all of us.

  9. Why is drug testing for everyone else and not for the feds? since the state must have this than why are not they in charge instead of the feds?

  10. We need a new Congress. Prerequisite: must like to get high on God’s medicine.

    Seriously, these guys are trampling on the most basic of human rights, the right to care for one’s own body, mind, and spirit as each individual chooses.

    The government, my employer, and every other man has no business intruding here. This is sacred ground.

    They are false accusers, slanderers, and hypocrites who malign the cannabis user and seek to destroy him.

    Woe to them who persecute God’s children!

  11. Hey, We needs to sit down and expression about drug test on workers and the patients and it’s needs to remove the drugs test them and allow them to relax themselves by using cannabis as a medicines.. It’s time to stop letting crimials and felonies getting rich by selling it.. I vote to remove any kind of drugs test and legalize the cannabis so the states will improve their budgets and not let those damn crimials and felonies getting rich and rip people off.. AMEN!!!!!!!

  12. Hey, I have been rearching about cannabis and before in 1930’s there was legalize cannabis and found only few crimes there then after 1930’s then they decided to illegal the cannabis then the crimes are very way higher then add a bullshit the drugs test why take on good people who use cannabis as their medicine ? Most people don’t realize that cannabis is a herb and it created by our heavenly father that provide it to people who are very sensitive from dangerous man made prescriptions…

  13. It time to legalize the cannabis and stop bullshit drama about cannabis and VOTE to legalize it… REMOVE the drugs test, PERIOD !!!!!

  14. The system in place to help people that can’t find work & not able to work . Not just don’t want to”. For the ones that keep having baby’s while on welfare they need to get a 10% reduction after their kid.
    These able body people need to get their butt out there make their living.
    sick of lazy ,lying ,cheating low life’s.

  15. So Im forced to pee in a cup. This is not a free country.
    This is BS I always get positive for cocaine even though I never do it. Where’s the justice?

    SSI is for helping those who can’t work.

    I can’t work. Period.

    And to take this further. If I lose my SSI Im going to kill myself.

    Because Its not my fault.

    Even though Im clean, I still will come up positive for something, ’cause all the psychotropic meds I take.

    Yes they know what drug causes positive results. However they dont know my body and how it works. They need more research. Not stupidity and lack of understanding.

    Just because the paper turns blue doesn’t mean it’s blue.

  16. i personally like the fact that we have to get drug tests to get a job. If you wanted honest hardworking employee’s would you hire someone who does drugs? to get a job you must get a drug test. but to collect unemployment all you have to do is try to get a job(and by try all you have to do is apply) even if you get offered the job but say im over qualified for it you can turn it down and continue to collect unemployment. why should hard working Americans work to make money for themself and for the other people that dont want to work? the people that argue this are people who collect unemployment and people who abuse the system. if you dont like the fact that you need to take a 5 minute drug test then your obviously on drugs and cant pass.

  17. Weed, Legalize it! Psychotropic drugs( prescripts for pain, bipolar, anxiety, Schizophrenia) ban it or require them to pee monthly to ensure no other drugs are being abused. To many pain pill poppers abuse their pills and FAKE pain they don’t have, which explains false doctor visits for dilaudia because they’re jonesing for pain drugs Like someone I know, and really have nothing wrong with them and are able to work! Get off your ass lazy biatch. Other harder drugs should be tested for for current patients of pschotropic meds to but should let weed be the only exception. Also new applicants for SSI are tested ( I guess) but should be approved if unable to work even the simplest tasks like gas attendant or janitorial can mentally break a person down because of stress, and weed should still be an exception. I can’t hold a job, been outta work for 5 yrs now, applied everywhere simple enough for my mentality to handle, smoke weed because no meds, and our government is being douchebags by denying me SSI because of a belief of simple work is possible but yet I can’t even handle that. Now a pee TEST! Really! Rise up my ANONYMOUS friends and take down government ASAP. Government not for the people are out for themselves just like hmmm…Hitler,Stalin,Kim Jong,and other Communist Dictators. If our government don’t shape up quickly it will cause a Civil War, the disabled Vs Congress and yes even the military will revolt against its government because of the lack of what is owed to them and their families that also have disabled members whether physically or Mentally.

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