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Welfare Recipients to be Drug Tested in New Michigan Pilot Program

December 27, 2014 Criminal Law and Procedure

A new one year pilot program in Michigan will drug test people who receive or apply for welfare benefits. The pilot program is to be launched in at least three counties to be determined.

Medical marijuana patients would be exempt from the program.

A person will be asked to take a drug test if there is a reasonable suspicion of drug use. An initial refusal to take a test will result in a denial of benefits for six months.

A person receiving welfare who fails a drug test will be required to undergo a drug treatment program. Refusal to participate in a treatment program or to take subsequent drug tests will result in a denial of benefits. A second failed test will result in a termination of benefits. Passing a later drug test can restore welfare benefits.

The Department of Human Services would utilize a substance abuse screening tool to see whether there was “reasonable suspicion” of drug use by a recipient or applicant for welfare. The law requires this tool to be “empirically validated.” A finding of reasonable suspicion by the tool would lead to the drug test.

There are about 80,000 welfare recipients in Michigan.

Michigan had previously enacted a mandatory welfare drug testing program in 1999 that was struck down by a federal court. This new law follows in the steps of at least 11 other states that have passed similar laws since 2011.

The Michigan non-partisan Senate Fiscal Agency estimated that a statewide drug testing program would cost $700,000 to $3.4 million, and save $370,000 to $3.7 million.

There does not seem to be much financial gain, if any, from a statewide drug testing program.

Welfare drug-testing programs stigmatizes our poorer neighbors, who cannot protect themselves with lobbying dollars in the same way that, say, business executives can.

A proposed Michigan law that sought to drug test business executives whose companies receive government money did not gain traction among Michigan lawmakers.

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