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Welfare Recipients to Undergo Drug Testing in Michigan?

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michigancapitolIn order to combat the drug problem in Michigan, the state House of Representatives and Senate have passed legislation to create a pilot program that would perform drug tests on anyone in the state receiving welfare benefits and suspected of drug use. This is one of the first states to try to implement such a procedure. While the bill has not been signed by the Governor, it is hoped that it will be enacted soon.

As part of the pilot program, three counties will be chosen to participate in the trial. Drug tests would be administered in the event that there are suspicions of drug use. The legislation allows for first time offenders to be given the opportunity to enroll in a state-run treatment center. In the event the violator refuses addiction treatment in Michigan, or does not complete the program, all welfare checks would stop. In order to ensure that children of addicts are still taken care of, welfare checks for the children would still be administered, but they would be given to a relative approved by the state.

This new legislation coming up against much dissent, with those opposed to it stating that the new laws are unconstitutional and targets those who are poor. Supporters of the bill are quick to point out that private sector jobs require drug testing frequently. “This bill has to do with the fact that the working men and women of this state who pay for these benefits are subject to the same requirement (drug testing by employers). It’s treating the people who are poor exactly the same as the working men and women of this state,” explained Senator Bruce Caswell.

The Michigan legislature had passed a similar law many years ago, but a judge overruled it, stating it was unconstitutional if there was no suspicion that drug use was a problem. A similar law was overturned in Florida recently. In an attempt to avoid the law being overturned again, policy makers added in the clause that welfare recipients had to fall under suspicion of drug use before they could be tested, as well as provide for minors involved.