Last Thursday, the Republican-controlled state Senate passed House Bill 4118, which allows for suspicion-based drug testing of welfare recipients as a pilot program in three counties. The Department of Human Services is set to be in charge of the drug testing and will be endowed with $500,000 to cover testing expenses. Welfare recipients are slated to lose their benefits if they test positive or refuse to test. Gov. Rick Snyder should reject the bill because welfare-based drug testing is ineffective and discriminates against lower socioeconomic classes. Snyder should focus on helping welfare recipients find reliable employment instead.

House Bill 4118 was passed by the Michigan House in May 2013 but will return for the approval of Senate amendments. The bill is different from its legal precedents due to a clause that only allows drug testing with reasonable suspicion. Supporters of the bill argue that the program is addressed to protect the children of welfare recipients whose parents potentially spend benefits — $394 per month — on illegal drugs. If a recipient tests positive, they will be referred to a substance abuse agency for intervention and ordered to pay for their drug tests. Failure of a second drug test may result in the suspension of benefits. Medical marijuana and prescription drugs will not be considered a violation of the law.

There are about 31,400 people who will be affected by the bill. People who continually test positive and are taken off welfare benefits are expected to save the state $4,700 per year. However, a similar program in Florida turned out to be ineffective. The implementation of the program ended up being more expensive than cost-saving with only 2.6 percent of the people testing positive. Similarly, Arizona tested 87,000 people between 2009 and 2012 with only one person testing positive. Programs such as these have proven costly and difficult to execute.

In 1999 and 2003, similar Michigan bills were deemed unconstitutional by a federal judge and were struck down as unreasonable forms of search. Legal precedent shows that these laws aren’t in accordance with individual rights. While it’s admirable that legislators are ostensibly looking for ways to protect children, a discriminatory procedure that’s been proven ineffective numerous times isn’t a logical solution. The legislature should look for a better way to address the issue.

It’s especially concerning that the drafting of the law allows room for discrimination due to the level of ambiguity. There aren’t sufficient regulations to prevent racist or other biased suspicions. In addition, under the law, if welfare recipients who test positive for the drug test have children, there will be a determined payee through whom the children will continue to receive Family Independence Program benefits. Such an implementation will potentially put a lot of pressure on children, as they will become the only ones in the household to receive benefits. This may further deteriorate familial relations and only worsen the problem.

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