Minnesota to Test Welfare Recipients for Drugs

By Shawn Dwyer 12/31/13

The Land of 10,000 Lakes becomes the latest state to throw its poorest citizens into the icy waters of uncertainty.

...unless you're on welfare. Photo via Shutterstock

Chalk up another one. On Wednesday, January 1st, Minnesota will become the latest state to randomly test recipients of welfare for drugs, despite overwhelming evidence that taking such measures to prevent drug users from receiving public assistance has very limited success, at best.

Added as an amendment during a 2012 legislation session with limited debate, the new law will require the state Department of Human Services to force recipients convicted of past felony drug offenses to identify themselves in order for them to be randomly tested – though the definition of “random” will vary from county to county. Since the law was based on the commonly held notion that many welfare recipients also do drugs, opponents have stepped up their criticisms in recent days. "I don't think anyone is under the illusion that this is about saving taxpayers money," said Heidi Welsch, director of family support and assistance for Olmsted County. "This is punitive."

Minnesota joins nine other states, including Kansas, that will test welfare recipients for drugs. Even a cursory look at the states already employing such measures has revealed that results for the programs have been lackluster, and ultimately cost more money than they save while failing to weed out drug abusers that may be enrolled in the welfare system.

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Shawn Dwyer is a writer, editor and content producer living in Los Angeles. You can find him on Linkedin.