Despite a lack of evidence linking welfare applicants and recipients with increased (or even average-level) drug usage, U.S. Representative Stephen Fincher (R-Tennessee) has reintroduced a bill that would require those applying for welfare benefits to undergo urine testing for illegal drugs.
Rep Fincher's proposed legislation is modified from previous, similarly intended bills in hopes of circumventing court rulings that found welfare drug testing violates the U.S. Constitution's 4th Amendment prohibiting unreasonable searches.
Last week the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit upheld a lower court's earlier decision that the state of Florida's 2011 law requiring drug testing for welfare applicants is unconstitutional.
Rep Fincher's bill would make it necessary for every welfare applicant to sign a waiver of his or her constitutional right when it comes to drug testing.
Florida's welfare drug testing had been previously halted by U.S. District Judge Mary Scriven, who pointed out that only two percent of welfare recipients failed drug tests. Far less than the general population’s use of illicit substances, which is estimated to be eight percent.
At a time when the federal government is having to shut down services because of a budget crisis spawning the recently highly publicized “Sequester,” it hardly seems practical to establish a nationwide welfare drug testing system just to catch a low percentage of individuals vying for a paltry $392-a-month average assistance check.
And seeing that marijuana is by far the most commonly used illegal drug (and in relative terms, the cheapest), Rep Fincher's bill appears aimed at pot use at a time when it is being legalized at state and local levels in virtually every election.
Hopefully Congress will take a look at the bigger picture and kill Rep Fincher's wasteful and unnecessary bill.