Scott Walker has proposed a plan to drug test all recipients who receive Supplemental Nutritional Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits in the state of Wisconsin. Many states have proposed legislation that punishes welfare recipients who test positive on a drug test by reducing or completely eliminating the benefits that they receive. However, a majority of the legislation has failed miserably. First and foremost, drug testing all recipients who receive welfare benefits costs more than it saves.
State governments have quickly learned that the number of drug users on welfare is significantly less than they had anticipated. Utah spent more than $30,000 on administering drug tests to find that only 12 people had tested positive. Several thousands of recipients were also tested in Florida. Only 2. 6% tested positive, yet the total cost amounted to $115,000. Missouri spent nearly $493,000 to find 20 positive tests results and Arizona tested 87,000 recipients to find just one positive test result.
Georgia enacted a law, earlier this year, requiring testing in cases where there is a reasonable suspicion of drug use by SNAP recipients. However, the law did not take effect. It was barred by the United States Department of Agriculture on the basis that imposing additional standards of eligibility for SNAP participants violates federal law. Drug testing welfare recipients not only violates their privacy; it also violates their right to be free from unreasonable searches and seizures by the government under the fourth amendment.
The logic behind this legislation is that public tax dollars should not be used to support those who use drugs. However, welfare recipients are not the only ones who receive public tax dollars and are certainly not the only ones who use drugs. People from all socioeconomic levels receive public tax dollars. If it is so crucial to ensure that drug users are not receiving public funds then we should test everyone who receives them, from the governor all the way down to municipal employees.