Oklahoma Gov. Mary Fallin (R) last week signed into law a bill, House Bill 2388, that requires welfare applicants to be screened for possible drug use and drug tested upon suspicion they are using.
The screening requirement is designed to surmount constitutional objections to mandatory, suspicionless drug testing of public benefits applicants and recipients.
Several other states have passed public benefits drug testing laws with a screening process to create “reasonable suspicion” that a given individual might be a drug user, while others have have passed laws requiring mandatory, suspicionless drug testing of welfare applicants. Such laws have been received with various degrees of enthusiasm by citizens.
The Oklahoma law takes effect November 1 and is aimed at adults applying for the Temporary Assistance to Needy Families (TANF) program. Applicants who refuse to take the drug test or who test positive will be denied benefits. Applicants who test positive and then undergo a drug treatment program — at their own expense — can reapply for benefits after six months.
“House Bill 2388 will help ensure welfare checks are not being used to pay for drugs. Hard working taxpayers shouldn’t be asked to subsidize drug abuse, and this bill will help to ensure they are not,” Fallin said in a signing statement.
“Additionally, HB 2388 helps to preserve the mission of state-funded welfare — to provide a social safety net helping the unemployed and needy get back on their feet, find work and support their families,” the Republican governor continued. “Unfortunately, drug abuse prevents many recipients of welfare from achieving any of these goals. Drug addiction and illegal drug use contribute to child abuse and child neglect. They also make it difficult to find and hold a job. For all these reasons it is important for drug users and those with substance abuse problems to seek treatment rather than simply being handed a check from Oklahoma taxpayers.”