Michigan welfare recipients will be required to submit to suspicion-based drug testing if the state legislature has its way. House Bill 4118, approved by the Republican-controlled House last Friday, is headed for the Senate. If the bill is signed into law, the Department of Human Services (DHS) will set up a pilot drug-testing program in three counties, to be evaluated after one year. The DHS would report results to the legislature.

Under the proposed law, new welfare applicants would be required to undergo a screening for drug use using an “empirically validated substance abuse screening tool.” If the screening indicates the likelihood of drug use, the applicant will be required to take a drug test. Existing welfare recipients would be required to undergo screening annually. If a drug test is positive, the person would remain eligible for benefits only if they enter drug treatment. Anyone refusing to follow a treatment program would lose benefits. The state would pay for drug testing — except in the case of a positive test, when the welfare recipient would be required to pay for their own test.

Michigan is joining a handful of other states that have passed laws mandating drug tests for people seeking welfare, despite recent evidence that such laws have few, if any, tangible benefits. Utah authorities recently spent $26,000 screening 4,425 welfare applicants for drugs; only nine of them tested positive.

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