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West Virginia lawmakers OK drug testing welfare recipients

West Virginians could lose their welfare benefits for failing a mandatory drug test.

Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin enacted the controversial measure Wednesday, which goes into effect in June, Think Progress reports.

According to the website, case workers must screen welfare applicants when there’s a “reasonable suspicion” of illegal drug use. Those who fail a first test could keep benefits, but must get treatment and enroll in a job training program.

The state is less tolerant if drug use continues. Officials will suspend benefits up to a year for a second failed test. A third failure would result in the permanent termination of benefits. Under the law, Child Protective Services must investigate parents who fail a test.

Supporters in West Virginia argue that the new law will stunt the growing drug problem. Others say it’s unacceptable for those on public assistance to “sit around all day and use drugs,” according to Think Progress.

Critics say the new law is unfair. They argue that everyone receiving money from the state—including lawmakers—should be tested. Furthermore, the opponents call the new law a waste of money and perhaps unconstitutional.

Think Progress points out that West Virginia’s law must pass federal scrutiny, as 10 other states with similar laws did. Those states have spent $2 million in two years, failing to discover rampant drug use among their welfare recipients.

In 2014, a federal appeals court struck down Florida’s stringent version of the law. The New York Times reported that judges said Florida failed to show why it was testing everyone who applied for welfare benefits. As the Times explained, unlike the Florida statute, other states with similar legislation required testing only if drug use is suspected.

The West Virginia American Civil Liberties Union said the law’s reasonable suspicion clause raises constitutional concerns. Moreover, the organization believes “false stereotypes” and politics were the driving forces.

SOURCE: Think Progress | PHOTO CREDIT: Getty | VIDEO SOURCE: Inform


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