Texas drug bill ought to mellow out, man

Texas drug bill ought to mellow out, man

March 27
22:12 2013

If you’re addicted to drugs, do you deserve money from the government? For the Texas Legislature, all signs point to “no.”

On Tuesday, lawmakers pushed forward with a bill that would require drug testing for certain applicants to the state’s Temporary Assistance to Needy Families program, a monthly cash assistance provision utilized by more than 100,000 state residents every year. You might be more familiar with the program’s informal name: “welfare.”

The initiative, which is backed by Governor Rick Perry and Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst along with the state senate’s Health and Human Services Committee, would cut off all funds for 12 months if an applicant tested positive for illegal drugs.

The bill originally made the testing mandatory for every applicant, but after consideration the requirements were altered to only require the tests for individuals with prior drug convictions or other suspicious attributes that suggest drug use.

This is certainly a more reasonable approach than testing everybody, but it’s important to remember that drug use among welfare recipients is hardly a major issue.

National studies indicate that individuals receiving financial assistance use drugs only about three percent more often than the rest of the population.

In fact, alcohol abuse is a far more serious and widespread problem for needy families, and these proposed drug tests have absolutely no means to detect it.

A few proposals have been made to modify the bill, allowing applicants who fail drug tests to still receive benefits if they enroll in substance abuse treatment programs—an approach we would wholeheartedly support.

This country already punishes non-violent drug offenders enough by tossing them in prison alongside hardened criminals for smoking marijuana, so any initiative that emphasizes rehabilitation for drug users instead is certainly welcome.

As a side note, the average payout for families enrolled in TANF is about $174 per month—and as far as we know, that doesn’t buy a whole lot of drugs. At least not the really good ones.

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