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Seven states made the painfully expensive mistake of stigmatizing welfare recipients as drug users. Spending $1 million on drug testing so far, statistics found that less than one percent of participants in all states except for one tested positive for drug use, ThinkProgress reports.

Arizona, Kansas, Mississippi, Missouri, Oklahoma, Tennessee, and Utah all utilize drug testing to weed out users from acquiring government assistance. But there’s only one problem — the number of welfare candidates who failed the tests is not significant, which renders the program a big ol’ useless money drain.

Let’s take a look at some of the states.


Back in 2012, Utah implemented a law that mandated testings of eligible welfare residents who had a “reasonable likelihood” of having a “substance use disorder,” ThinkProgress said. If one tested positive, they received zilch. This procedure, in the state’s eyes, will help reduce spending on benefits… so they think.

Analyzing the 2012-2014 period, statistics show that 9,552 applicants applied for public assistance in Utah and 838 were tested for drug use — just 29 tested positive. The program cost Utah nearly $65,000.


Kansas passed its drug testing law in 2013 and statistics captured the program’s progress — or lack there of — during the first six months. About 2,700 applied for TANF assistance. According to ThinkProgress, 65 applicants were referred for “suspicion-based drug testing” — 11 were tested positive while 12 didn’t show up. Kansas spent $40,000 for the drug screening costs.


Mississippi, passing its drug screening law in 2014, saw 3,700 TANF applicants — 38 were tested for illegal substances, but only two tested failed. The state spent more than $5,290 since the program’s inception.


Missouri adopted its drug testing program in 2011 and began screening in 2013. In 2014, there were 38,970 applicants — 446 were deemed suspicious, but only 48 tested positive. “The first three years of the program will likely cost the state more than $1.35 million, including start-up costs,” ThinkProgress adds. Yikes.


Between 2012 and 2013, 3,342 applied for TANF — 2,992 were selected for testing and 297 tested positive for drug use. The state spent an estimated $385,872.

ThinkProgress points out that the national drug use rate is 9.4 percent.  “In these [seven] states, however, the rate of positive drug tests to total welfare applicants ranges from 0.002 percent to 8.3 percent, but all except one have a rate below 1 percent.”

Some legislators claim that these bills help trim costs by weeding out drug abusers, but as ThinkProgress notes, “in reality, they come with few, if any, benefits.”

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