In July, Tennessee decided it was prudent to waste taxpayer dollars drug testing welfare recipients. Applicants for benefits have to answer three questions about drug use, and if they answer “yes” to any of them, they are referred to urine testing.
If applicants test positive, they are required to complete a treatment program and return for more testing. If the second test is failed, applicants are cut off from much-needed benefits for six months. If someone refuses to take the test, they can not receive benefits.
In the month since it began only one applicant out of 812 tested positive for drugs. Four were turned down because they refused to be screened. Of those who were screened, just .12 percent tested positive–well below the 8 percent of Tennessee residents who use illegal drugs.
The ridiculous practice of drug testing welfare recipients has been a dismal failure all around the nation. In Florida, just 2 percent of those tested failed, wasting $115,000 of taxpayers’ money. After the practice was ruled unconstitutional, the state had to reimburse those who had lost their benefits $600,000. In total, the state wasted over $45,000 on the program.
In Missouri, almost $500,000 residents were tested over a eight month period. The state drug tested 636 people. Only 20 failed at a cost of nearly $500,000 to the state.
Other states failed to justify their programs, as well. Utah experienced a success rate of only 2.3%, Arizona found only one positive result between 2009 and 2012, and Oklahoma found only 4.4% of applicants “dirty.”
In 2012, an estimated 9.2% of the population used illegal drugs, according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse. Is it really worth it to demonize those who are forced to rely on benefits for their survival?