North Dakota GOP Wants to Require Welfare Recipients to Pay for Drug Tests

| by Michael Allen
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Several Republican lawmakers in North Dakota are pushing a proposal to require drug testing for anyone who receives welfare. The welfare recipient would also have to pay for the drug test when he or she applies for welfare.

Requiring someone to pay for a drug test, which can cost as much as $100, creates an impossible situation for people who have no money, but that doesn't seem to be a problem for GOP lawmakers who believe welfare recipients use drugs.

According to, Rep. Dennis Johnson (R-Devils Lake) told the South Dakota House Human Services Committee that the bill would ensure that taxpayer money is not being used to pay for drug addiction.

"This bill provides a needed incentive for people to keep clean from drug use," Johnson said.

However, the New York Times reported that when Florida tried the same type of drug testing on welfare recipients, there was actually very little drug use reported and the drug tests did not save the state money.

If this bill is passed, North Dakota could deny public assistance for one year after the date of a positive drug test and three years after the date of a second positive test.

"If we believe this type of legislation will make individuals seek treatment, stop buying drugs and become happy, productive taxpaying citizens, we are fooling ourselves," said Shari Doe, Burleigh County Social Services director.

States that have passed such legislation have been "susceptible to constitutional challenges," said Carol Cartledge, public assistance director for the state Department of Human Services. "Drug testing as a condition of receipt of economic assistance is generally considered a search under the Fourth Amendment."

David Boeck, a lawyer for the Protection and Advocacy Project, said the bill "would be impractical, prohibitively expensive and unduly harsh for some individuals with disabilities."

Rep. Keith Kempenich (R-Bowman) is one of the bill's sponsors and said he received state public assistance about 20 years ago, but was not drug tested.

"It's not overly burdensome," Rep. Kempenich claimed. "Most employers require drug testing pretty much across the board."

However, recipients of corporate welfare would not be required to be drug tested in order to receive their financial aid from the state in the form of special tax breaks and subsidies.

Sources: and New York Times