NWAnews.com :: Northwest Arkansas’ News Source
Two legislative committees authorized on Monday a study prior to the 2009 legislative session of a proposal to require recipients of certain public assistance to undergo random drug testing in order to continue receiving assistance.
Those who failed a drug test would have to successfully complete a one-year drug treatment program approved by the state Department of Human Services and remain drug-free during the program.
The proposal was submitted by Rep. Frank Glidewell and Sen. Denny Altes, both Republicans from Fort Smith.
The public assistance “shall be discontinued” if the person fails to complete the drug treatment program or fails to remain drug-free in the program.
The House and Senate Public Health, Welfare and Labor Committees OK’d the study with no discussion, debate or questions.
Glidewell said he believes that alcohol and / or drug problems are “pretty widespread” among recipients of public assistance. It may not be their largest problem, but “it’s a problem” that is a sickness like tuberculosis and cancer, he said.
“If we can help people out by sending [them ] to rehab, I think we are making better citizens out of them,” he said.
Beware when your government wants to “make” something out of you.
You know, as a I write these news stories about state legislation, I often wonder if they have ever thought through the natural consequences of their legislation. Because it seems to me that only a person motivated by the desire to look “tough on drugs” in order to win votes would support such a heinous measure.
Think about it, Rep. Glidewell. You’re a drug-addicted mother of three, working a part-time job, going back to school, and attempting to get clean. You’re caught with a dirty drug screen on a random test. Now you’re forced into one year of rehab – how does that fit in with your work and daycare and school schedule? Then within the one year, you relapse – which happens – and, what, your housing assistance and family aid money is cut off? You’re forced to quit school, maybe even lose your home… yeah, out of school and homeless with three kids, that ought to help your rehab.
See, this kind of thinking comes from the paternalism of prejudice. It’s the idea that since they receive welfare, they are childlike failures whose lives must be controlled by the state. It’s the idea that we can’t be “subsidizing” somebody’s drug problem. Maybe I’m just sensitive to this, as I grew up the poor child of a drug addict and food stamps and WIC and state aid were the only thing that kept me fed, and if those had been taken away if my dad failed a drug screen, then why would you want to see child Russ starve because his dad was an addict?
This drug testing for welfare is counterproductive. Michigan already tried this and got shot down in the courts. It doesn’t reflect any sort of drug problem among welfare recipients, as welfare recipients use drugs at a rate at or below that of everyone else. It doesn’t help get welfare recipients off drugs; six states have already discovered mandatory random drug testing for welfare recipients to be less effective than questionnaire, job retraining, and other methods in detecting and preventing drug abuse. Drug testing, as I described in the vignette previously, distracts from actually solving the problems of low education, low skills, and psychological issues that keep people in poverty and on welfare.
And, in my mind, worst of all, as usual random drug testing is more discriminating to the marijuana user, who may test positive for weeks, than it is to the cocaine, meth, heroin, or alcohol user, who can clean up in a couple of days. Thus, a policy like this would force people away from the safest, least life-impacting drug, marijuana, and toward the harder, more life-impacting drugs. Furthermore, as we know, there are many medical uses for marijuana, and even though it is not recognized in Arkansas, it’s not hard to imagine there must be many people in that state using cannabis for medical purposes.