Kansas senator wants mandatory drug tests for recipients of welfare, unemployment

ACLU says testing would be unfair

TOPEKA, Kan. - Thousands of welfare and unemployment recipients in Kansas could soon find another road block in getting financial assistance.

"We are trying to help identify folks that have drug addiction problems, get them the help they need, and get them back into the workforce," Senate Vice President Jeff King explained.

King, of Independence, Kan., said his bill would force the state to do that, by implementing drug tests for those who have previously failed or refused tests when applying for a job.

"People don't want our welfare and unemployment system to perpetuate illegal drug use," King said.

Doug Bonney with the ACLU of Kansas and Western Missouri said it is an unfair move that singles out a small group of people who are mostly innocent.

"It's not fair, and it's also not true. In fact, recipients of welfare benefits use drugs at a rate significantly lower than the general public," Bonney said.

Statistics from Florida back up Bonney's claims.

In 2011, Florida became the first state to pass a bill mandating drug testing for all welfare applicants.

The ACLU reports that only 2.6 percent of applicants tested positive for illegal drugs. In most of those cases, the drug was marijuana.

The state also spent hundreds of thousands of dollars administering the mostly negative tests.

"You waste a lot of money for no obvious public purpose," Bonney said.

King said the cost for Kansas would be next to nothing. He said most of the funding would be from the federal government, and that the testing is necessary.

"I don't know what better use we can have of welfare dollars than to identify, treat and get the job skills that folks on welfare need to get back into the workforce and be able to support their families," King said. "That's exactly, in my belief, what the welfare program was intended to do."

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