Unnecessary Drug Testing for SNAP Applicants

By Wiha Powell

The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), formerly known as the Food Stamp program, provides food-purchasing assistance for low and no-income families. However, since the 1996 federal welfare reform, some states have proposed that all SNAP applicants should be required to take a drug test. However in 2003, a Michigan Court of Appeals ruled such law unconstitutional. The Court stated that, for Michigan to subject every welfare applicant to a drug test without reason to believe that drugs is being used, is unconstitutional. Despite such ruling, states are still trying to carry out this unconstitutional legislation that would require drug testing as a condition of eligibility for SNAP.

According to U.S. Census Bureau, there are now 45.3 million people living below the poverty line in one of the richest countries in the 21st century. What is it that our leaders tend to gain by subjecting these 45.3 million people and their families to unwarranted drug testing? Looking at the twelve states that has already implemented such legislation, plus the 18 states that introduced proposals in 2014, what evidence is there that people on SNAP are drug users?

Our leaders are making the presumption that the poor people on SNAP are more likely to be drug users than the rest population. However, studies done by both Tennessee and Utah can put this propaganda to rest. Tennessee’s bill was enacted in 2014, in the first month of its enactment 812 individuals was subjected to the new drug testing rules and of the 812, ten people were affected. However, only one tested positive for drug use.

In the first eleven months after Utah enacted its law, 4,730 applicants were tested and only 12 people tested positive for drug use. Furthermore, as an added bonus, a federal appeals court recently struck down Florida’s 2011 law for drug testing SNAP applicants. The Court stated that, “the state has not demonstrated a more prevalent, unique or different drug problem among TANF applicants than in the general population.”

Obviously, drug testing SNAP applicants not only prove to be unconstitutional, but also unnecessary and a waste of taxpayers’ money. By implementing such laws, our leaders are stating that the people with the greatest need are habitual drug users and that the government has all right to invade their privacy to prove such a sham.

A word to our leaders­. Just because someone is poor and is seeking the government’s assistant to provide food for themselves and their family, does not make them a drug user. So stop wasting taxpayers’ money, stop drug testing SNAP applicants and do your job in helping the 45.3 million people living below the poverty line to feed their families.


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