Indiana House Oks Drug Testing For Welfare Recipients

by Yesha Callahan

Indiana House Oks  Drug Testing For Welfare Recipient- ClutchIndiana is making it a bit harder for people to receive welfare by passing a bill that will enforce mandatory drug testing. The proposal to require recipients of Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) to take written drug tests passed in the House Monday with  a vote of 78-17. The bill will require people to  pay for their own drug tests out of their assistance checks and require anyone with drugs in their system to enroll in a treatment program or lose their benefits:

If the individual tests positive on a drug test administered under this chapter,the amount of the cost of any subsequent drug test the individual is required to undergo will be withheld from the TANF assistance the individual receives, if the individual continues to receive TANF assistance, regardless of whether the individual tests positive or tests negative on the subsequent drug test.

“The impetus of this bill is to identify folks who have a problem and help them,” explained Republican Representative Jud McMillin. McMillian authored the bill to make sure people who receive TANF aren’t using it to buy drugs. Recipients would take a written test first. The test includes questions like: True or false? Most people would lie to get what they want?  and I have a drink first thing in the morning to steady my nerves? If the written test showed a propensity for drug use, the recipient could be chosen for a monthly random drug test.

“If you get tested and you’re clean, then you won’t be retested,” said McMillin.

Now just because a test could show propensity to having an addictive personality, does it actually mean a person could be using drugs? I have a propensity for sugar, but you don’t see 8 boxes for Twinkies sitting in my kitchen. This is the exact issue the ACLU has with the bill.

“Merely showing a propensity for an addictive personality on a test should not be deemed to be cause for anything,” argued Ken Falk with the ACLU. Falk said the proposal violates the Constitution. “I think somehow when we do stuff to poor people, we take a pass on basic constitutional rights,” said Falk.

Also, is the state taking in account people may not exactly give honest questions? I’ve always said, the world is filled with honest people, when they’re not lying. I guess the state feels that everyone will truthfully answer the questions, even though they know a failed test could implicate them in drug use and halt their benefits.

Indiana isn’t the first state to attempt drug testing welfare recipients. Two years ago, Florida Federal Judge Mary Scriven ruled that the law may violate the Constitution’s Fourth Amendment ban on unreasonable searches and seizures: “This potential interception of positive drug tests by law enforcement implicates a ‘far more substantial’ invasion of privacy than in ordinary civil drug testing cases.” It was also discovered that the tests only caught a small percentage of drug users and ended up being considered wasteful spending.  Out of the 4,086 applicants tested in Florida, 108 people failed, mostly for marijuana. $118,140 was spent by tax payers to reimburse people for drug test costs, which ended up with a state’s net loss of  $45,780. It’s estimated that this new bill will cost Indiana a half-million dollars, but could possibly (the operative word is possibly) save over $1.5 million.

What do you think about laws such as these?


*Update: Speaking of Florida… federal appeals court today struck a blow to a 2011 Florida law requiring drug tests for all applicants to the state’s welfare program…. suspicionless testing laws will not stand.




  • J. Nicole

    I think you’d have to be high or drunk to fail the test; so maybe it’ll work.

    I know I get pissed when I see people collecting benefits just because they happen to be addicted to drugs, while people who legitimately need the assistance have to jump through hoops. I’m sure the money being pushed into this could possibly serve another purpose, so maybe this isn’t the way to do it, but there should be a way to seperate those who need financial assistance due to life changing events, opposed to those who “need” it for meth.

  • Sasha

    Why is this a problem? I pay my taxes and don’t even bother looking at my paycheck anymore because I can’t stand to see how much is taken out for Social Secuirty, Medicare and other nonsense that does not benefit me. People receiving government assistance are spending the money of tax payers so with that being said they need to be drug tested.

  • AJW

    I feel sorry for the poor sometimes. They all get treated like leeches. I only see things getting worse down the line for people having hard. I wish people felt so strongly about corporate welfare too.

  • tash

    They have done studies and when they pulled that mess in Florida they spent more out refunding people who passed the tests. Research has shown that majority of the people who collect any type of assistance do not normally participate in using drugs because of the consequences of losing that assistance outweighs doing that drug and getting caught.
    Really what state would do what another state did without throughly checking the facts and stats.
    What they need to start doing is hold classes to teach people on assistance how to be smart with the money they do have. Especially when they get their tax refund how to use to benefit them thru the year instead of three weeks out of the year.

  • Come On

    It’s not about them catching drug users who abuse the system. I’m all for stopping people from gaming the system. It’s about their image of “poor people.” Most white people see welfare recipients as black, and they think most black welfare recipients are on drugs and such. They tried this in Florida. It didn’t work. Do they even really have a reason to start doing this? This is just Republicans with nothing better to do trying to make their tea party supporters feel like they are doing something important when they are really not. They spend a lot of time worrying about TANF, welfare, and “poor people.” They blame the entire recession on “poor people,” and TANF. And by poor people I mean black people, so they’re talking about all of us. I just laugh at these idiots. Then these are the same losers who will start crying about social security and Medicare. It’s stupid because they rant and rave about entitlement programs, but these are the two biggest welfare programs. If the government is going to go after any program because of spending it will be those. And the Republicans are quick to put these programs on the chopping block even though people have actually paid into Social Security, and they actually are entitled.

  • Tonton Michel

    If implemented fairly, I see no problem here.

  • Val

    They should make the Lawmakers take drug tests too. After all, they’re taking taxpayer money too.

  • PBR

    I don’t agree with that anymore, the face of welfare is more becoming white meth users in the country. A lot of whites in that state probably wouldn’t pass these tests.

  • beejcee

    @BR 1:16 PM
    You are correct regarding the face of welfare becoming white meth users but the face of welfare has always been white. It would have never been if it was for black people. If you are talking about state benefits, they were developed for the white population not for us, we were allowed to apply and sometimes awarded but not developed for us.

  • Kay

    You know, I am disappointed in this, only because studies have shown that most people on state assistance don’t use drugs. In most states, assistance is means tested, meaning that most people who have it have to be working and making some legitimate means of money. They also have to meet strict guidelines regarding how much they can get, and often it isn’t much. Drug abusers aren’t likely to have steady income. This is another way to stigmatize the poor. The public has shaped this image of who is on assistance and granted I’m sure there are a few that abuse the system, but the ones you don’t know are on assistance are the ones who may have a home, may be on unemployment and are trying to seek work, are educated, etc. But most of these people won’t talk about being on assistance. It’s shameful. It’s shameful because people will assume that you are a good for nothing leech if you are on it.

    In this country we think that the poor deserve their lot because they don’t work hard enough. We ignore all the crazy systemic things that we do as a country to ensure that there will always be an underclass. And it’s not just Black people who are the underclass. There’s a growing number of Whites too. So this problem affects all of us, but you won’t see it framed that way on the news. They’ll blame those good for nothing Blacks who don’t want to work, even though you have to be working to even get it.

    Who do you think are the biggest drug abusers? It’s actually not Blacks. And it’s usually not the poor. Affluent Whites and other groups use drugs at a higher rate, which is why the cartels have set up shop here in the U.S. while simultaneously inciting drug wars in Mexico. And I know there’s this “Why are we wasting money on social welfare programs?!” You all do realize that the bulk of our nation’s spending is in defense contracts? No? Didn’t know? Well it’s true. Social welfare accounts for less than about 5% of our national budget, so all this b.s. is just a red herring to keep us from really looking at the people in power and how they choose to spend our money.

  • Kay

    And a lot of those Whites don’t even qualify to get assistance either. Assistance is means tested. There is a whole process where case workers have to first meet a potential client, they have to meet eligibility requirements and I doubt they would. The face of welfare being Black has been proven by multiple studies and the whole thing of former President Reagan’s tactic of the mysterious Black woman who drove up to a welfare office in a cadillac (which was later proven to be untrue). Even if the face of welfare are White meth users, it only denigrates and stigmatizes the poor people who actually may be trying to get on their feet.

  • myblackfriendsays

    The biggest problem I have with this is that it doesn’t appear to end up saving money.

    However, if you’re going to get a handout from the gov’t, I don’t see a problem with conditions being put on it. I also wouldn’t have a problem with lawmakers being randomly drug tested. If you don’t want to be drug-tested, then apply for a job somewhere else.

  • Marketing Gimmicks

    *Shrugs shoulders*

    Another wasted move to criminalize the poor.

    Why would you spend money on drug testing when you could be using that money to fund other social programs that address real POVERTY? A word that everyone in America seems to want to pretend doesn’t exist. In order for capitalism to work there will always be those at the top, the wannabes in the middle and the bottom who are a very vulnerable and easy targetable group of people with little means to protect their image.

    Newflash everyone: The poor are never going away no matter how the PR machine makes you feel about them. No matter how many taxes are taken out of your paycheck. Whether you think they’re a stain, a shame, an embarrassment or a threat to your security poor people are the bottom and in today’s economic climate are staying there because the gap between the have’s and have not’s has become the Red Sea.

    I wish people felt so strongly about corporate welfare. Corporations have off shore accounts are subsidized by government grants with no fault loans, and have shipped most manufacturing jobs overseas where products are made and sold right back to the American people who aren’t working or underemployed creating a debt to income ration that makes Jesus cry every night.

    The poor are not to blame for our nation’s problems. It’s the greedy racists and bigots that are shaping a narrative of divide and conquer that has many of us duped.

  • Ms. Information

    Socialism creates thing like this…but go on and do it as long as the congressmen and other public workers have to do it too.

  • SayWhat

    I don’t think it is too much to ask that someone be clean if they want help. Let’s be honest, welfare is not meant to subsidize drug use, so with this law you’d be criminalizing the drug usage, not the fact that they are poor…..besides, they fail, you know who to send to rehab

  • GeekMommaRants

    They tried this stupid idea in another state and caught ONE person who smoked something green. What a waste of money, such hatred for the poor.

  • Nicoline

    This is good. If you really need the assistance…

    One: you shouldn’t be spending money on drugs (if your buying them yourself) and it doesnt matter if its just a nickel or dime bag because five and ten dollars here and there adds up.

    Two: If you have kids and you need to feed them through welfare you should be willing to take a simple test because as a parent you shouldn’t be doing drugs anyways AND yes whether people agree with it or not WEED is considered a drug in most states.

  • seritatheresa

    Socialism doesn’t. That word is thrown so candidly and those of us who had to sit in a room for 8 hours defining it (PhD qualifier) is painful. People who are misguided and blame the poor for the ills of society bring these things about.

  • JaeBee

    Your reasoning is asinine. As many have mentioned up thread, this is nothing more than an attempt to further criminalize the poor. People who receive TANF benefits aren’t the only recipients of federal monies. Why don’t we require all students who apply for federal student loans to take drug tests? Why don’t we require recipients of other federal benefits such as SSI and SSD to take drug tests?

    When time comes to point fingers and lay blame for individuals who “take” unearned monies we as a society are quick to demonize poor, (black) mothers as opposed to realizing that MOST of society has/or will benefit from federal aid/welfare at some point in their life.

  • seritatheresa

    Most recipients are white but the perception of the welfare mom is a black woman getting over.

  • Mademoiselle

    I do agree that drug testing should be a requirement for assistance, but there’s so much wrong with the way they’re going about this.

    So if someone is caught with marijuana in their system, the assistance their family gets is now lowered indefinitely even if that person tests negative every time afterwards. So they’re only allowed one mistake, and rehab won’t reinstate their good standing to get their full assistance back?

    The written test depends on comprehension skills, which means if you had to read “I have a drink first thing in the morning to steady my nerves” twice, like I did, for the syntax to sink in (“first thing in in the morning” and “steady my nerves” are not phrases I commonly use, so it took a 2nd try for me to relate the colloquialism), you could end up screwed — Lord help the immigrants on assistance.

    Everyone’s assistance is being cut by the cost of the drug test, since they’re deducting the cost from their benefits, and it’s cut even more if you have to enroll in a drug program, which comes out of your assistance check too. It assumes that people on TANF are living on so much excess that they can afford to use their benefits on these expenditures.

    I don’t understand why Republicans go through such pains to villainize people who need help rather than find actual effective ways to provide the kind of help that would allow people to feel like they have a fighting chance to make it on their own. They’re basically saying you better not ask for help unless you are the perfect citizen. There’s a way to ensure assistance checks are used for the right reasons without implying that recipients only sober up enough to cash their government checks. Like maybe set up a voucher system for utilities, so money for the electric bill, phone bill, etc. goes directly to pre-approved companies instead of getting traded for drugs, and only the remainder gets paid out in cash. I’m sure that would bring down the cost to taxpayers since the gov’t could work out lower prices for the services, and less cash would be paid out in benefits, which means there would be less to spend on drugs if the person does have a habit.

  • Mau67 (@MauMau1067)

    I think this is ridiculous and another way to demonize the poor and more pointedly black people or those whom the public views as those most likely to seek public assistance. How bout they enact laws to drug test those that head corporations who receive tax payer subsidized welfare or bailouts and don’t pay taxes? People kill me how they don’t even question that type of welfare which is 10 times as costly but those who actually need help are made to jump thru all sorts of ridiculous hoops. Eventually, the way this economy is going, there will be a lot more people who will be negatively impacted by this but by then, legislation like this will have spread like cancer to other states.

  • seritatheresa

    In these states they’ll send people to jail not rehab.

  • Humanista

    Do you feel similarly about all of the subsidies given to major corporations or all those that go into facilitating the comforts of middle class suburban life (this isn’t shade; I am a suburbanite)? Or does that spending bother you less because those are a lot less easy to trace?

    Is it okay to test students or new homeowners for drugs when they get and federal assistance, as well? Or all the CEOs before a big bail out? (I vote yes on that last one! Ha.)

    I think if you did a little research, you’d see that 1) the richer you are the more you benefit from the system and 2) of aaaaalllll the money our government wastes much less than you think goes to those programs.

  • Norm

    Social Security and medicare are nonsense that don’t benefit you???

    What a stupid, bigoted UNINFORMED FOOL.

    Go get educated!

  • myblackfriendsays

    I’m guessing this person meant that by the time he/she is able to access those programs (65), they will both be bankrupt.

  • Cocochanel31

    Great topic. My uncle and I were having this conversation the other day.

    On the one hand – I have had to take drug tests before, so have many others for various jobs I have worked, and esp for those who work in government positons that require a security clearance. Guess what if you fail, you don’t get the jump or lose your job ..that simple. Of course peple will always find a way to get around the system, however, I don’t see anything wrong with it.

    On the other hand – it is somewhat problematic in that I can see it being used as a REASON NOT to give more monies to the poor, and I can see it somehow being a wayto eventually stop giving money to TANF and other organizations.

    We probably all know of people who are really milking the system, while the working poor are given the short end of the stick on a daily basis. I’m on the fence on this one.

    In theory I don’t see anything wrong with it, in practice, a whole nother story.

  • whtat?

    Uh Oh, It’s about to be a whole lot of white people getting benefits cut off.

  • ifthoughtscouldkill


  • Fox

    You guys are missing the fact that this will create a nice payday for the drug testing company and the rehab centers. This sounds like a lick for some politicians’ friends who have a stake in the drug testing and rehab. I think it’s unfortunate they will test them. I got off welfare in 1997, because I was tired of the state in my damn business.

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