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Drug Testing for Food Stamps, the New Compassionate Conservatism

Seth DiStefano,
ACLU of West Virginia
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January 28, 2009

(Originally posted at West Virginia Blue.)

Yesterday, I received a call regarding a legislative proposal that would subject all recipients of welfare based services to random and suspicionless drug testing.

Needless to say, the ACLU of WV is opposed and for good reasons far beyond the outrageous constitutional violations involved.

First of all, there are in fact a great deal of people in West Virginia living on public assistance (specific numbers to come at a later date.) As the economy works its way through the current rut, odds are that more people will be turning to unemployment to weather the storm.

Handing a coal miner, or a paper plant worker, or a Greenbrier resort employee, or an aluminum plant worker a cup to pee in with their pink slip is as offensive as it is unconstitutional.

Secondly, from a fiscal standpoint, this idea would almost certainly be counter productive. The cost of instituting a random and suspicionless drug testing program would be substantial, bordering on exorbitant. The state would dole out more in testing than they would come close to saving by removing substance abusers from the rolls.

Third, this is a backwards approach to West Virginia’s drug problem. Those with substance abuse problems need access to treatment, not the removal of their food supply.

And while we are talking about that, it is worth mentioning that the people who will truly suffer from this unconstitutional policy will not be substance abusers. No, it will be the poorest of West Virignia children who rely on Welfare based services for daily hot meals that will bear the brunt.

Let’s make it clear, singling out the poor for denial of government services is not compatible with 14th Amendment principles concerning equal protection under the law.

Stuff like this is proof that bad ideas never go away.

That’s alright, though, neither will the ACLU and our commitment to defeat them.

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