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Is Drug Testing Welfare Recipients Wrong?

By February 2015, drug testing welfare recipients was authorized by legislature for twelve different states.  Drug screening welfare applicants poses a controversial issue in itself, but when FL Representative Trey Radel landed himself cocaine charges in November, there was an uproar surrounding the double standards.

Drug Testing Welfare Recipients

Trey Radel cocaine use

Rep. Radel was caught with cocaine, which led to his being charged for a misdemeanor on Tuesday, November 18 in Washington D.C.  According to Huffington Post, Radel apologized for abusing cocaine during a formal statement, in which he said, “I struggle with the disease of alcoholism, and this led to an extremely irresponsible choice.  As the father of a young son and a husband to a loving wife, I need to get help so I can be a better man for both of them.”  Although Radel said he was “disappointed in [himself],” he added, “It offers me an opportunity to seek treatment and counseling. I have a problem and will do whatever is necessary to overcome it, hopefully setting an example for others struggling with this disease.”

Irony in Radel’s vote for officials to be drug tested

It was quickly revealed that Radel voted that officials be drug tested, which is ironic considering he was abusing drugs.  When speaking to BuzzFeed, Minority Leader of the House of Representatives Nancy Pelosi mentioned, “It’s really interesting it came on the heels of Republicans voting on everyone who had access to food stamps get drug tested… it’s like, what?”  The public may be appalled and see this as unfair treatment.  If drug testing welfare recipients is being done because of concerns about applicants taking advantage of government benefits, then why wouldn’t the same argument be used for government officials?

Drug screening on welfare

The House passed an amendment created by Representative Richard Hudson of North Carolina to screen all welfare patients for potential drugs, but the votes of each individual were not logged.  However, it’s known Radel was in support of Hudson’s food stamps bill.  “This is a clear and obvious problem in our communities as nearly 30 states have introduced legislation to drug test for welfare programs,” Hudson made his stance. “We have a moral obligation … Discourage the use of illegal drugs.”

Representative Jim McGovern brought controversy by suggesting that if recipients on food stamps are forced to be drug tested, then other individuals receiving benefits (like government officials) ought to be treated no differently.  “Why don’t we drug test all the members of Congress here,” McGovern raised the stakes.  “Force everybody to go urinate in a cup or see whether or not anybody is on drugs? Maybe that will explain why some of these amendments are coming up or why some of the votes are turning out the way they are.”

The House-Senate conference committee will determine whether or not it is ethical to continue to screen recipients on welfare for illegal drugs or not.  The twelve states drug testing welfare recipients now include Alabama, Arizona, Florida, Georgia, Kansas, Michigan, Mississippi, Missouri, North Carolina, Oklahoma, Tennessee, and Utah.  The National Conference of State Legislatures claims some of these states require drug screenings for all applicants while others only undergo screenings if under suspicion a recipient is abusing drugs.  Dealing with differences and discrepancies after the case with Rep. Regal has created turmoil, which hasn’t helped the controversy surrounding the ethics of drug testing welfare recipients.  Is drug testing welfare recipients fair game? And if so, should they possibly be offered help for their addiction problem like FL Representative Trey Radel was?

Are you suffering from an alcohol and/or drug addiction?  Contact The Watershed to start living free today.  Call now at 1-800-439-5959 and begin again.

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