Kansas Launches Drug Testing For Welfare Recipients

By McCarton Ackerman 12/30/13

Despite other states wasting financial resources on their own testing programs, Kansas is ready to go full steam ahead.

No food stamps for this guy. Photo via Shutterstock

Next year, Kansas will become the latest state to begin drug testing welfare recipients. The plan, which is not expected to start until July 1, will see Kansas joining nine other states in requiring those receiving government assistance to pass drug tests. Supporters of the plan say it prevents people from buying drugs with illegal money, but all signs point to the tests being a huge expense with very little benefit.

The new plan that Kansas has adopted will result in a drug test for people who are reasonably suspected of drug use and a removal of welfare benefits if they test positive. They can get back the benefits by undergoing a drug treatment and job skills program before successfully completing another drug test. A second positive result yields a 12-month suspension of benefits and a third positive test results in permanent removal of them.

However, the plan has been a flop in other states. Missouri spent about $500,000 on its welfare drug testing program, but only recorded 20 positive results and nabbed 200 others who refused to comply. The roughly 220 people that the program caught is less than 1% of the 32,000 people in the state who have applied for assistance since the testing began. “I think it’s just astronomical,” said Rep. Stacey Newman (D) of St. Louis County, MO. “It’s a horrible waste of state resources.”

In April 2012, Florida showed that only 2.6% of the welfare applicants in the state failed their drug tests - or 108 out of 4,086 in total. In addition, reimbursing the costs of the tests to welfare applicants who tested negative outweighed what the government would have disbursed to people who failed, ultimately costing the state $45,780. The lackluster benefits have resulted in two states this year, North Dakota and Virginia, rejecting bills that would have mandated drug testing for welfare recipients.

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McCarton Ackerman is a freelance writer and editor living in Portland, Oregon. He has been a contributor for The Fix since October 2011, writing on a wide range of topics ranging from medical marijuana in Colorado to the world's sexiest drug smugglers. Follow him on Linkedin and Twitter.