The senate in Michigan recently passed what is viewed by many as controversial legislation by approving a bill that would require drug testing for individuals who are on welfare and under suspicion of using drugs.
The bill, which was decided in a 25 to 11 vote that went straight down party lines. Democrats opposed the bill and Republicans supported it.
Law Will Be Rolled Out With Pilot Programs
Under the provisions of the law, the Michigan Department of Human services will assess the effectiveness of the program and make decisions about the way in which it should be run based on pilot programs, which will be set up in three different Michigan counties.
Part of the bill includes an allotment of funds in the amount of $50,000 to pay for the testing expenses associated with the program.
Tests Administered to Those Who Are Under Suspicion of Using Drugs
Not all welfare recipients in Michigan will be required to undergo drug testing. The Department of Human Services will test only welfare recipients who they believe may be using drugs. Of the 44,000 people in Michigan who receive welfare benefits, 13,000 are children, who would not be required to complete testing.
This means that a total of about 32,000 could potentially be asked to complete drug testing. If a person who is receiving benefits tests positive for illegal drugs, they will have their benefits revoked. The average welfare recipient in Michigan receives a little less than $400 in benefits each month, meaning that each person who is found to be using drugs and has their benefits revoked will save the state about $4,700 a year in distributed benefits.
Proponents of the bill argue that in addition to saving the state money, the bill may prevent those with drug problems from using benefit funds to buy drugs. Children of recipients who test positive will not have their own benefits revoked.
Bill Will Include Amendments That Make Exceptions For Certain Instances
In addition to continue to provide benefits for children whose parents test positive, the program is designed to make exceptions for individuals who carry medical marijuana cards or other prescriptions for drugs that have been prescribed by a doctor.
These amendments were not included in the original text of the bill, which means that it will have to be run back through the House before the bill can go into effect.
Controversy Over the Bill
Not everyone in Michigan supports the move to drug test welfare recipients. Senator Vincent Gregory, for example, has expressed the concern of many who believe that the act in effect targets poor people. Senator Gregory points out that the state spends money in the form of tax cuts to large corporations, but that employees of those corporations are not subject to drug testing.
A similar bill was passed in Michigan in 1999, but it was subsequently ruled unconstitutional because that bill, unlike the current one, did not require that those tested exhibit something that would arouse suspicion. In Florida, a similar law is already in place, and an average of 22% of individuals who receive welfare benefits are subject to drug testing. Of that 22%, only an average of 5% of those individuals test positive for drugs. Most professionals who work in the drug addiction and recovery field agree that financial status has little to do with the likelihood of an individual suffering from drug addiction.
Addiction is a disease that can affect people of all ages and financial backgrounds. There is no such thing as a “typical addict,” and misconceptions about addiction can be very dangerous.