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USDA Reminds Georgia That Drug Testing Welfare Recipients is Illegal

A positive drug test from someone applying for food stamps in Georgia, which is federally illegal.
Photo by Micah Baldwin

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USDA Reminds Georgia That Drug Testing Welfare Recipients is Illegal

The separate powers that dictate federal and state law have locked horns once again, this time on the issue of drug testing Americans. Earlier this month, the United States Department of Agriculture reached out to the state of Georgia to send them a friendly reminder that forcing food stamp recipients to undergo mandatory drug testing is a clear violation of federal law.

The rift between Uncle Sam and this southern state unfolded just days after Georgia Governor Nathan Deal signed House Bill 772 into law, which requires select welfare applicants to submit to a drug screen if the administration overseeing those benefits believes there is a “reasonable suspicion” that the applicant is a drug user.

However, the USDA was quick to fire off a letter to the governor’s cronies reminding them that federal food and nutrition regulations “prohibit states from mandating drug testing of [food stamp] applicants and recipients.” Regulators with the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program also expressed this sentiment in a recent message to Georgia officials, which stated that local agencies are prohibited from establishing new “standards of eligibility” in an attempt to supersede the federal Food and Nutrition Act.

Still, many state lawmakers believe it is good policy to enforce mandatory drug testing on suspicious food stamp applicants. Furthermore it does not appear as though Georgia is rushing to back down from the feds. In fact, rather than adhere to established federal no drug testing guidelines, the Department of Human Services indicates that the agency is only taking the USDA’s letter “under advisement” and not making any immediate changes.

Even Governor Deal does not appear worried about Uncle Sam’s warning. A statement issued by spokesman Brian Robertson said “We’ve forwarded those [federal] concerns to the attorney general for further review.”

Opposing forces of the state’s new “reasonable suspicion” welfare law say it is the administration’s way of bullying the poor based on “unfounded stereotypes.” While the Department of Human Services suggests caseworkers have a significant amount of breathing room in determining “reasonable suspicion,” critics believe the law is too ambiguous and a detriment to the nutrition program.

What do you think? Should welfare recipients be tested for cannabis? Tell us in the comments.

24 Comments

24 Comments

  1. drmct

    April 10, 2015 at 9:39 am

    Welfare monies are set up to help people who need financial help for a time when they can’t work, find work, or to help them as they get better work that can properly support them. I don’t care if it’s legal recreational drugs or illegal drugs, they shouldn’t abuse this programme to support habits from cigarettes to heroin, alcohol to marijuana! This money is to sustain them till better support is attained! If they don’t understand this, and so abuse the system, get tested or discontinue to use the system.

  2. noneyabiz

    June 28, 2014 at 3:09 am

    I am sorry, but if you CAN AFFORD DRUGS, LIQUOR, WHATEVER, IT DOES NOT MATTER, THEN YOU OBVIOUSLY HAVE MONEY TO SPARE. Which means you can afford food. RECREATIONAL anything is a luxury. LUXURIES are for those who can afford them. This shouldn’t even be a debate. Anyone arguing against mandatory drug testing for welfare recipients if it is deemed necessary in certain cases needs a wake up call. Oh you have a substance abuse problem? I’m sorry were you born that way? H*LL F*CKING NO YOU WEREN’T!!! Get real America. Obviously if you were/are PRESCRIBED medical marijuana they’re going to take that into consideration. Most of the commentators on this thread sound so ignorant and illiterate. Cry me a fu*king river I cannot stand pot heads. Keep it illegal and make testing mandatory end of story.

  3. Tony

    June 18, 2014 at 7:00 pm

    If a person is well and able to work but don’t have a job, yes they should be tested. But if a person is disabled and can’t work but needs the extra help because Social Security just isn’t enough to get by on, then no. Why test people that can’t work anyway and just waste the money paying for the test??

  4. monica paulousek

    June 15, 2014 at 11:31 pm

    hemp oil have done my husband much better in his syck&fhycik so i Love marijuhana <3could just whis that all thise Old head sitting there dont take drugs specially not cannabis wt f <3Have a nice day <3

  5. Gatubela

    June 15, 2014 at 12:05 pm

    If you are gonna GET MONEY FOR FREE, staying off drugs is not illegal requirement. They want their cake and eat it too!! No apologies. IT’s FREE MONEY!!! Most of us have to work for it. Wanna have their cake and eat it too.

  6. isis lemons

    June 15, 2014 at 8:23 am

    so the case workers are gonna drug test recipients based on suspicion then that let one know that they are gonna keep track each month of where the recipient is spending their food stamps and cash and if its spent in different types of places then the person get tested? WOW! after so long the state of GA gonna get tired of footing the bill the same thing happened in the state of FL. I think the state of GA should use that energy and money to help the needy and homeless and stop the bullying in schools

  7. Kristina

    June 15, 2014 at 2:14 am

    I don’t think they should, I use medical marijuana for my epilepsy, just cus I’m sick and rather not take pills i still have to eat! The problem is they don’t even care why or what ppl are using it for. They just jump to the worst conclusions.

  8. Andrew Sullivan

    June 14, 2014 at 4:04 pm

    not against the use I just feel as though if they can support their natural habit then they don’t need assistance because there’s probably people who struggle with actually needing help with that are not users

  9. David Ruud

    June 14, 2014 at 12:11 pm

    All this is…is welfare “haters” acting out. They are simply “prejudiced” people. No less discriminatory than any other form of bigotry. They clearly lack education and information pertinent to who and why most people are in need of assistance. Most are just ignorant “followers” who are either too lazy or too ignorant…or both…to research what it is they so vehemently are against. Again…no different than any other type of bigotry.

  10. DORIS

    June 14, 2014 at 11:08 am

    YOU TAKE A DRUG TEST TO GET A JOB WHAT MAKES THEM SO SPECIAL I SEE PEOPLE EVERYDAY THAT GET WELFARE AND ALL THEY DO IS SIT AROUND ALL DAY SMOKING WEED AND DRINKING AFTER ALL OUR TAXES PAY FOR THEIR RENT THEIR FOOD AND MEDICAL UTILITIES THEY LIVE BETTER THEN PEOPLE THAT WORK EVERYDAY

  11. tammy

    June 14, 2014 at 11:03 am

    I feel they are making canibus legal an that its not a major threat as to the other drugs out there that make people want to sell everything,robbing people,cause harm to others or their selves far as I see it if they smoking canibus you should believe their stamps will be spent on food no one shall go hungry an Im sure majority of people using it lead a normal life an maintain their daily living an dont harm anyone. So no they shouldnt drug test

  12. Tracy Tanner

    June 14, 2014 at 8:33 am

    YES! recipients should be tested… if they can afford illegal drugs… they can afford food! we must pass drug tests to be employed… it’s our tax dollars providing for welfare recipients!!!

  13. emily

    June 14, 2014 at 2:02 am

    My parents recieve food stamps and were recently fired for a failed test after coming back from vacation from getting married. Could this law do them any help? We live in missouri.

  14. James McGee

    June 13, 2014 at 11:31 pm

    Hell yes they should be drug tested!!!! If they have the money to do drugs then they have the money to eat, they just haft to decide which is more important!!

  15. aaron

    June 13, 2014 at 10:15 pm

    it is a pointless endeavor and a massive waste of funds.

  16. reid

    June 13, 2014 at 10:05 pm

    Yes,welfare recipients should be tested.If they can afford to buy weed they have enough to buy food

  17. James drury

    June 13, 2014 at 10:02 pm

    I do not feel they should test for weed cause I don’t feel is a drug, however wouldn’t hurt to test for harder drugs such as heroin which is real problem in this country now.

    • noneyabiz

      June 28, 2014 at 3:17 am

      You are missing the entire point if they can afford to pay for drugs..they can afford to buy food. So yes they should be tested. No one NEEDS to be getting high on anything. It is not a necessity. People who have their priorities screwed up thinking its more important to buy drugs than spend the little money they have on food should be shot. People who really need the assistance would have no issue with towing the line and following the rules in order to get any help they could. It’s the low life scum trash that wants to pitch a bi#$h fit over this. If you’re not doing anything wrong, then you have nothing to worry about.

  18. jose

    June 13, 2014 at 9:47 pm

    If I’m going to be tested for cannabis and other substances to get a “JOB”, even more if I’m applying for foodstamps, it should be in the requirements for applying in the first place and also be subjected to random testing thereafter as often as needed.

  19. Mandy

    June 13, 2014 at 8:38 pm

    For cannabis hell NO for drugs a major YESSS!!!!

  20. Sabrina

    June 13, 2014 at 8:36 pm

    I think this is rather rediculous, people have to be drug tested to get a job, but people can get free money and food without having to be drug tested??? How does that make any sense…

  21. RobMMJP

    June 13, 2014 at 8:36 pm

    I am a medical marijuana patient, am on disability, and receive food stamps. To think I would have to choose between effective medicine or feeding my child is outrageous. I know many will say “I get tested at work, they should get tested for welfare” The bottom line comes down to feeding the poor. Poor are even those whom work, but make less than a living wage. Many people, not just the poor like to unwind after a hard day with a drink, a smoke, or another form of recreational substance. Many people struggle with drug addiction, so the solution is not to feed them? Seriously people have some empathy, the tiny amount of actual taxes taken from a working persons check to help fund the food stamp program is insignificant with the amount of tax money put into giving large corporations breaks. I don’t see any one pushing for drug testing of large corporation heads. Try to think with compassion on this stance. This is one thing the Feds have right.

  22. kimberly

    June 13, 2014 at 8:29 pm

    All welfare recipients should definitely be tested. They live off the government’s money which I work for and them bastard are getting shit for free. I AM SO PISSED off being a tax payer that the state would EVER CONSIDER it! !!!!

  23. don woolwine

    June 13, 2014 at 8:26 pm

    No testing. Unless they’re going to test people for tax refunds , disabled people, mayors, presidents, federal employees current and and who receive pensions, the thousands of illegals. Hell, legalize drugs,give all the dope jobs to welfare recipients and all is fixed. Dumb people

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