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. To the people saying, “If I have to take a test…” You DON’T have to take a test. Stop allowing other people to control YOUR bodies. If you choose to let jobs overstep their bounds, it’s your choice, and not one that should be used as a litmus test for Congressionally-approved bodily invasion.

  2. The sooner Marijuana legalization happens in the United States, the tests like these will be repealed. The problem is the legalization process in states like Chicago,New York etc need to happen sooner rather than later. Because places get paid to do these types of tests and this is all due to medical marijuana plain and simple.

  3. thehat; Do you believe that managing substances should be based on their properties on the human organism or politics? Would that person be offensive for buying cat food? Do you realize that cultivating is treated as trafficking in federal law? Consider the context of your point,man!

  4. The ONLY people that should be drug tested are all the politicians and substance abuse officials. I think we better see whats in their urine and bloodstreams.

  5. Then say to these Representatives: do your jobs and let the money go where it belongs. We just want to make sure that you are making level headed decisions and not on drugs and politicking

  6. this is just another way this incompetent government of ours is trying to get out of paying us citizens that have always worked and pay our taxes if we lose our jobs we must go thru this bullcrap.I say HELL no to this policy as everyone else should,whats next some freaking test to see how many beers or cigarettes we smoke to consider if we qualify for any assistance we might need if we needed to ask for it… we the people have got to say enough to these conservative idiots it’s looking more like were headed to communism, with a democracy blanket over it to cover the ugliness of this whole big brother watching our every move……………

  7. Then maybe they might not be so keen on the idea. It might make it seem like we don’t trust them. It might be too intrusive then. Maybe all the Judicial system Judges too. Lets all get drug tested right now and end all this nonsense.

  8. I propose an idea. Lets call ROBERT L. DuPONT and PETER B. BENSINGER and see if they can arrange a drug test sent out with every tax return. That’s the only way we can find out if all you guys are on the up and up.

  9. This is a shame to get a law that may be good and mix in the same old BS drug testing. Specifically unemployment benefits, are not some gift, and it is not right to deny those benefits to anyone,( barring violence or theft on the job), especially if they failed a piss test that may indicate weeks old off the job use of weed.
    As far as welfare recipients, there are other ways to determine if someone is using the system, like never applying for work etc. Do not be a hater, its not just your tax money.

  10. Eliminates the real druggies I think its a good idea. Save tax payer money instead of throw it away to addicts, who are not trying to better themselves.

    [Editor’s note: Who are the “real druggies”? The alcohol addicts? Tobacco addicts? Pill addicts? As long as cannabis is included in government drug testing, everyone in the eyes of the feds who uses cannabis, for whatever reason, including state-sanctioned medical cannabis use, is a “real druggies”.

    Just say no to government-mandated, suspicionless searches of one’s excrement–for whatever reason!]

  11. A good friend of mines father had worked in the steel mills for 35 years working 15-18 hours a day and I believe he had accepted the weekends from steel workers that had called off or accepted the extra man hours. He worked and operated in the 120f+ degree steel mill.

    Well, it so happened he caught the rarest disease that caused him to go blind.

    He doesn’t smoke bud. Even though he had might got his benefits, workmans comp and ect.

    For the ones that could catch diseases like this without benefits would have to go unemployment after 35 years of hard work and get diability, unemployment = piss test.

    This could happen to anyone and then you’re fucked.

    I am speaking towards people like Dan.

    Point being, it could happen to you. Now to collect unemployment you’ll have to piss test.

    BTW, what about Cancer patients and other diseased patients that collects unemployment? Now either they are gonna have to stop medicating and suffer the terrible pains that these diseases cause to collect unemployment or keep medicating and lose unemployment.

    It is 110% completely unfair. You know how many people I’ve met that are on methadone and collect unemployment aka wellfare without needing to piss test? Least 5, not friends, just people I’ve met, not really met because they looked like they were in a coma sitting up, should have said how many have I’ve seen.

    There are so many direction scenarios this could go.

    Dans statement makes no sense. Maybe your tax dollars are going towards the gun powder to fill up the bullets for M16’s for the solders over seas that shot their selves committing suicide, or your tax dollars are paying for the methadone for drug addicts that don’t need to take a piss test or maybe your now your tax dollars are being wasted to drug test on wasted passed tests or failed piss tests, either way if this passes or passed you’re paying in one way or another to the retarded minds of the govt.

    It is ignorant to hear people speak like this. Well, I put up with it because its your right to speak freely, Now, if your right to speak freely was taken, you wouldn’t be able to speak freely, just like now, they are taking citizens rights to fucking piss test to get unemployment, if they fail the piss test because they smoked some Marijuana that a friend like Dan lit a blunt up and shared it they lose unemployment or lose it because they have a harsh disease and is a must to medicate.

    This bill or w/e it is called is fucking dumb.

    Hope I got my point across :).

    -cheers to once again wasted tax payers money.

  12. “Only those who are actually injured by DEA’s refusal to reschedule cannabis have standing to submit DEA’s potential actions in this area to judicial review by the federal courts”?

    *Thx “JG” for what you’ve done in totality.*

    This has been tossed back and forth by the DEA and HHS for many years and for an extensive duration the DEA saw no purpose in it’s properties but as time has come/gone at this juncture the entity that has been stalling progress is HHS. Please, acknowledge what we’re here to convey. Accept this and begin the restoration process for all involved. This policy of incarcerating individuals and taking their livelihoods, families and futures from them for choosing a safer alternative has to end. You may think that what is happening to this community is appropriate and true but I would have to respectfully disagree. All I ask is that you intrinsically search and if you truly believe that these acts of condemnation need continue then we are far more polarized than I ever imagined and that will prove detrimental to humanity as a whole for the foreseeable future.

    One day it will be and by the grace of those hearts by true leaders that have no need/want for the affliction of the governed it shall be and we shall all rejoice in thanks and giving.

  13. o.k. since big brother is probably reading this–i can only say it is time to move to amsterdam!!! i love America, but it not the land of the free and the home of the brave anymore!!! tired of right wingers,tea parties, and uptight filthy rich only wanting to get richer politicians!!!!! pretty soon they will want to tax us for air that we breathe, be it smokey or not!! there is only one way to pay off the world debt-legalize marijuana, let the farmers grow, be paid by the gov’ cash crops use to be,put them back to work on farms, create jobs,let the gov’t package like cigarettes, and sell legally. not all smokers are deadheads!! something has to give!! COMMENTS?? oh, yes, the remains of plants, after harvesting can be made into many products,clothing for one! hemp is used for numerous things!

  14. AT Galileo Galile Since when did i say coffee was not a Drug.? And if u think that seeing folks Buying Tobacco/ Alcohol / And junk food that on Government Food card Does not burn me Really dont know Who I am. U sound like a young person that does not know what Freedom is. How precious it is. U telling me to get out of my country Be cause I want to protect our freedom. Its Ones like u that are causing us to lose our Freedom. ARE U EVENING RESISTER TO VOTE? No u are not. So get out of my Country go live in China

  15. It’s obvious to anyone who bothers to think about it how ridiculous this new law is, but I don’t think it’s going away anytime soon, unconstitutional or not. The rhetoric directed at people who don’t want to think it out for themselves is unfortunately convincing.

    Baseless sentiments against welfare recipients are fantastically popular not just among the rich, but throughout the employed middle class as well. The congresspeople who penned this law are telling their constituents “Studies estimate the unemployed are twice as likely to use drugs as average Americans. We’re going to stop those druggies stealing your hard-earned tax dollars”. It doesn’t matter that they’re lying through their teeth on both counts, it sounds nice to a population living in a recession that already loves to hate the unemployed.

    As for why it passed in the first place, that’s right in the article: partisan bullshit. I guess we can take some small comfort from the fact that we got an extension on unemployment benefits tied to a terrible drug-testing policy instead of no extension whatsoever. It’s unfortunate that our government can’t consistently deliver anything much better than “not quite the worst possible outcome”.

  16. This is unconstitutional since people who have their own business or the wealthy won’t have to test.

    “Thinking Clearly”, don’t give the urine fetishists any ideas. I’m sure this is a long term plan for them.

    As far as drug testing goes, let’s start with congress and state legislatures first.

  17. Could drug testing administrators lie about the test? If so, what could you do, continue to play their game at your own expense? Challenge them in court?
    Would you be on government file and have your name listed that you have refuse a drug test?

    Too many questions and the law is unconstitutional. But if the U.S. Supreme Courts says it is okay, what are you going to do about it?

    What other drug testing abuses will become law?

  18. Anger and Resentment, thats right on. I feel plenty of that. I know how to deal with this crap, but I better not say it here.

  19. Nobody should be subjected to a drug test, whether it be for a job, unemployment benefits, food stamps or otherwise. Our politicians don’t have to submit for drug testing, yet make 6-figure annual incomes, off of our backs. They’re the true “welfare queens.”

    As far as all the benefits marijuana provides (besides the THC content), I think the politicians are well aware of them all; they make more money by keeping it illegal and be shaming us by submitting us to drug testing. It’s very hypocritical considering how long other drugs are in one’s system, considering the damaging effects of alcohol (on self as well as one’s family), cig.’s and junk food. Has drug testing somehow made our country any safer?? No. Has it done anything positive for us as a society?? No.

    One more thing: I would much rather have an individual on welfare, or unemployment, or SSI/SSDI providing for themselves and loved ones legally as opposed to being homeless and on the streets, committing crimes to survive. Study your history, folks; more specifically, study the Great Depression of the 1930’s and why programs like Social Security and welfare came about in the first place.

  20. “…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.”

    Now how in the world are they going to decide who is seeking a job that would ordinarily require a drug test? When you are on unemployment only when you reach your extended benefits or if you are ‘randomly selected’ to show proof of the jobs you have applied for does Unemployment even know what jobs you have applied for.

    Do they have a list of those jobs that test and those that don’t?

    Are they going to spout-out that they are now going to be creating jobs by testing…someone has to go out and verify this information?

    It’s just downright nonsense. If they want to call out those who get tax money then they should be looking at ALL folks who get tax money and that would be Congress, Senate, state and locally elected officials, judges, Post Office employees: the list is endless.

    The real winners in this whole fiasco are those that manufacture, distribute and perform drug tests.

    The losers are those that value individual rights.

  21. I am a cannibas supporter but if you want to sit on your ads and get government assistance such as food stamps welfare or anything else you better be able to see in a cup and pass. I am sorry not everyone is a drug addict but a lot of the people in this country are and they are living off of the hard workers of this country and I am tired of it. For example my neighbors are addicted to heroin and have 2 children guess what they live in a nice house eat what ever they want and don’t work but receive all there money from the government and both of them are able to work they are in there twenties but it is easier to just get a check in the mail every month and i know that they aren’t the only ones in the u.s. that do this it makes me sick. I work hard everyday pay my own bills and receive nothing from our government. Which is fine but it isn’t are governments job to pay for people to live this country is in the crapper and it is because of stuff like this unemployment welfare, food stamp and disability is all a joke and shouldn’t be in place but if it is you better be clean and what does it matter people would still find a way to pass the test

    [Editor’s note: Just say no to suspicionless, warrantless and expensive govt-mandated drug testing. Period. For whatever reason the govt cooks up.

    Casting a critical eye to your apparently lazy, heroin-addicted neighbor (according to you, and of course neighbors always know the intimate details of the lives of others’….) is one thing, but having taxpayers waste even more money on drug testing and more govt agencies to gather and analyze the excrement, especially for cannabis, when these same supposedly heroin addicted neighbors can pass a drug test readily by beating it through adulteration, substitution, etc…or, just drug substitute the week of testing to say binge drinking alcohol, which is perfectly legal and welfare recipients are not tested, will not likely preserve one more precious tax dollar, while, doing great harm to science and the Constitution.]

  22. Since when do the bonus recipients at Bain Capital or eksonmobil get screened for their bonuses.

  23. I say if they implement this drug testing crap and if our efforts to legalize Marijuana fail then we will need to resort to plan B. Violence.

  24. Drug testing is a fascist idea invented by men who enjoy the manipulation and control. Who profits from a drug test? Certainly the drug testers. Nixon and the Father of drug testing ROBERT L. DuPONT.

    Behavior modification and Government is a match made in hell.

  25. Only elected officials and goverment employees should be required to pee. Especially those that have the RIGHT to punish you.

  26. Drug Testing violates of the 4th amendement. It is a self incriminating chemical loyalty oath. Will congress submit to these draconian measures? Why does the quality of a persons’ bodily fluids determine the quality of their life? Everyone on this board makes excellent points!Now only if common sense would be applied to those in the Congress as they apply uncommon,unwarranted, and unacceptable means to justify their agenda which is total control.

    “The constitution is not an instrument for the government to restrain the people, it is an instrument for the people to restrain the government.” Patrick Henry

  27. You know, truth be known, I don’t even wish this stuff on the Legislature. Just tell me please, why something that was developed to treat junkies is being applied to unemployment compensation and the rest of the country?

  28. Because anyone that takes anything is a CUSTOMER for a Substance Abuse counselor or a judge. It forces people to obey. It makes big money for testing labs and agencies and Corporations. Its expensive and all that money from the war on drugs supports this s..t . Courts love it, and don’t think its to help. You can’t help somebody that doesn’t sincerely want the help. What the hell are we doing using it our court systems? And in our Unemployment Compensation system. Its not supposed to be more than a hand up anyways that the employee has ultimately paid for himself. Its not a handout. Even if it was, drug testing was made to treat junkies not regular Americans trying to go about the business of living.

  29. This is the slap on the hand to America for daring to protest the prohibition of marijuana.

  30. Man I am Pissed,pardon the pun.How is it that we have put so many politicians in office that care only breaking the American people’s balls. They’re not helping anyone by cutting off their subsidy. All they are doing is giving money to their buddies in the pee testing business,and taking it away from the American people who need it. Just another success story for the 1% lobby.

  31. They just want more people in jail that’s all. People will just sell drugs or commit other crimes to pay for the lack of welfare. They’ll get caught, go to prison, make some rich fuck richer…. The system and life goes on. We ain’t seen nothing yet. The government is twisted in more ways than most of us know. Each piss test probably costs around fifty bucks a head no? In the future more people will depend on benefits. The government is going to continue to make life harder for people, and its gonna cost them allot of money. The government fucked itself right there I’m afraid. Making drug addicts piss in a cup solves nothing. Hasn’t it been proven that a bad addict will chose drugs over food? Do dumb shit to obtain both? This isn’t about saving money at all. This is about thinning the herd. Sick motherfuckers. May God have mercy on their souls.

  32. More prisons is right up their alley. That’s the business they are in. Incarceration, more war on drugs money.

  33. It is already being done to our Vets. No veteran will get any opiate pain meds unless they sign a drug screen contract which calls for random drug screening, none. I don’t know when this was but in place but it wasn’t in place back in the 90’s, I know because I didn’t have to sign anything back then. I guess it was only a matter of time before it hit the civilan population, there is also no appeal process in place either, again I tried, and to make matters worst your name flashes up as a drug failure evertime someone acesses your file so that everybody sees it. I am not going to add too any thing that has already been said, we all know this is a violation of our civil rights so what are WE (the people) going to do about it?

  34. The problem with the cannabis drug test is that it unfairly “catches” drug use long after any impairment from usage. The test, in fact, measures an inactive metabolite rather than active drug.

    I would not have a problem if the test looked at *active* THC such that only recent usage likely to affect job performance (i.e., within the past 24-36 hours). The current test is a fishing expedition that is a travesty.

  35. Just say no to government-mandated, suspicionless searches of one’s excrement–for whatever reason!

    lol well said they should not be able to piss test people for no reason it is demeaning. To Sam Blake wanting to get rid of all the “real” druggies and blah blah. What makes you think you are so much better than addicted people? I don’t see why people hate these people so much I have met a lot of people addicted to a lot of different drugs and they are not the horrible people most people try to make them out to be. As for the drug test them so they don’t sit on their ass and take taxpayer money argument first thing these people can’t get jobs because everyone hates druggies so they are often forced to go get government help and second if you don’t give desperate people at least something to live on they are going to be destitute and starving and they will be robbing your house so they can eat. Also the money these guys rip of from the government in insignificant compared to the amount of money the government spends on the war on drugs and drugs testing etc. Quite being such insensitive assholes people who are addicted are people to you are just furthering the propaganda that addicted people are not people so it is ok to lock them up and do things you wouldn’t do to “real” people. For the record a lot of the most hard working people I know use hard drugs and I mean manual labor not a sit behind a desk job. I work at a small clinic and know a lot of people and for the most part the majority of people are addicted to something cigarettes, caffeine, alcohol, food, and many other socially accepted things. Sorry for my rant everyone but the all the hate that substance addicted people get really bothers me. To me it is just like 100 years ago when everyone was wanting to string up the niggers it is discrimination based on misinformation. Hopefully we will all learn to get along someday.

  36. You can negate anyone with a drug test. Its a humbling experience.

    This is as bad as requiring a pee test at the grocery store before being allowed to put food on the table.


  37. “the Fourth Amendment precludes the suspicionless search, no matter how conveniently arranged.”

    Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg

  38. “the Fourth Amendment precludes the suspicionless search, no matter how conveniently arranged.” Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg

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