Politics

Federal Bill Could Impact Georgia's Drug Testing Law

| by Oren Peleg

Efforts in the U.S. House of Representatives have been revived to allow states to use drug testing as a prerequisite to receiving Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program benefits (also known as SNAP or food stamps). The bill, introduced by Rep. Robert Aderholt, a Republican from Alabama, would validate states like Georgia to move forward with laws mandating such policies.

According to The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, a 2014 law signed by Georgia’s Republican Gov. Nathan Deal was overturned after the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals struck down a similar law in Florida.

“We respect the State’s overarching and laudable desire to promote work, protect families, and conserve resources,” Judge Stanley Marcus stated in the ruling. “But, above all else, we must enforce the Constitution and the limits it places on government.”

According to the Independent Journal Review, as of November 2015, 13 states had passed laws mandating drug testing for SNAP recipients.

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“If the issue were addressing substance abuse and providing treatment, this is not the approach,” said Liz Schott, senior fellow at the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, told Think Progress about drug testing requirements for those seeking federal and state assistance. “This is not a policy-based or evidence-based approach or use of resources.”

“Applying and being accepted for aid is a mentally grueling process that can stretch on for months,” Darlena Cunha wrote for Time. “Add to that the humiliation of having to pee in a cup just because you can’t afford to eat. … Instead of wasting taxpayer money to weed out a small percent of those in need, demonizing an entire sect of people in favor of misleading stereotypes, maybe it’s time we put our funds into helping them find their way out of the system and onto their own two feet.”

“What this is really doing is creating more of a roadblock, yet another hurdle to get over when you’re trying to get on benefits,” Schott later added, notes Think Progress. “It’s more of an additional barrier … than it’s got anything to do with a particular issue of substance abuse. … The more hurdles you put in front of an applicant, the greater the share of people who won’t make it over all of those hurdles. People have complicated lives, and they’re in crisis.”

Sources: The Atlanta Journal-Constitution (2), Time, Think Progress, Independent Journal Review / Photo credit: Public Information Office/Flickr

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