Feds to Georgia: No Drug Testing Food Stamp Recipients

Feds to Georgia: No Drug Testing Food Stamp Recipients June 9, 2014

Several states have passed laws to drug test those who are on public assistance, but Georgia is the first to pass a law applying this to food stamp recipients. But since that is a federal program, the USDA has told Georgia that they cannot drug test as a condition for eligibility.

In the latest expansion of government drug tests, Georgia passed a law in March requiring the testing of some food stamp applicants and recipients. But this week, a USDA official told Georgia they can’t implement the law.

“[Food and Nutrition Service] policy prohibits states from mandating drug testing of SNAP (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program) applicants and recipients,” Robin D. Bailey, regional administrator of the USDA Food and Nutrition Service, wrote in a letter to state officials. “Requiring SNAP applicants and recipients to pass a drug test in order to receive benefits would constitute an additional condition of eligibility, and therefore, is not allowable under law.”

Food stamps are a federal program, so Georgia can’t implement a requirement that conflicts with federal policy. Georgia was the only state to require drug testing of food stamp recipients. But many states have imposed drug testing requirements on applicants for other public benefits, including Temporary Assistance for Needy Families, as well as on public employees, as the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) and Big Pharma lobby for the laws.

This is just another right-wing witch hunt to scapegoat and demean poor people. Recipients of public assistance programs use drugs at a much lower rate than the rest of the population.

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  • colnago80

    And, of course, these laws don’t require drug testing of other state recipients of state taxpayer funds such as state legislators and the governor.

  • Abdul Alhazred

    And, of course, these laws don’t require drug testing of other state recipients of state taxpayer funds such as state legislators and the governor.

    Betcha they do for regular (working class type) state employees, if not elected officials.

  • eric

    I bet this will only increase the number of conservative state legislatures that pass such laws. Now that it can be used as a symbolic gesture and not actually hurt the state, they’ll be lining up to do it.

  • Synfandel

    Do the legislators offer any rationale for the requirement? What business is it of theirs if a recipient smokes some weed?

    If the rationale is that recipients shouldn’t be spending money on drugs, then the law should be addressing the purchase, not the consumption, of drugs. If I’m a recipient and someone shares his stash with me, I’m not spending any of the support money on drugs, but I’ll fail the test. Conversely, if I’m a recipient and I’m buying drugs for someone else, I’m arguably abusing the support system, but I won’t be caught by the test.

  • Thorne

    I would really love to see them mandate drug testing for all elected officials, at all levels of government, from dog catcher up to president. Test them as a requirement to be placed on the ballot, again before they are sworn in, and randomly throughout their terms of office, minimum once a year.

    Because it’s becoming painfully obvious that some of these officials are smoking some really weird shit, man!

  • Isn’t TANF a federally funded program, as well. Several states, NY included have tried to make eligibility for TANF subject to drug testing.

  • ButchKitties

    These programs are just welfare for drug testing companies, but public assistance is okay when it goes to a corporation.

  • D. C. Sessions

    A lot of States have mandatory drug testing for “public safety” positions.

    I wonder how some of these legislators would respond to a bill proposing that (at the very minimum) the Governorship is a public safety position? If the legislators feel slighted, they can add themselves.

  • In an article from 1996, the Chicago Tribune, regarding potentially instituting random drug tests for congressional staff:

    But a number of Republicans–whom aides and other congressmen interviewed refuse to identify, saying they don’t want to hurt them politically–let it be known they considered drug testing an indignity unworthy of their elected positions.