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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


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.

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