Michigan's Republican governor has signed legislation to start a pilot program that will drug test adult welfare recipients suspected of using drugs in three of that state's counties. The bill, signed Friday by Gov. Rick Snyder, was among several bills the governor signed the day after Christmas.
A positive test would mean a welfare applicant would be referred to a drug treatment program, while refusal to take a test would mean a welfare recipient could be cut off from services for six months, according to the governor's office. Snyder's administration says the program helps people "get the help they need."
"This pilot program is intended to help ensure recipients get the wrap-around services they need to overcome drug addiction and lead successful lives."'
“We want to remove the barriers that are keeping people from getting good jobs, supporting their families and living independently,” Snyder said in a statement. "This pilot program is intended to help ensure recipients get the wrap-around services they need to overcome drug addiction and lead successful lives. We’ll then have opportunity to assess effectiveness and outcomes.”
The move is reminiscent of a plan being considered by Wisconsin Republican Gov. Scott Walker -- a possible indication of things to come as more state legislatures and governors' offices turn red in January after a slew of Republican wins in state races during the 2014 midterm elections.
Critics of these programs call them costly and ineffectual. The price tag of a similar statewide initiative in Minnesota in 2013 caught the ire of critics who said that law relied on a false perception that a greater percentage of welfare recipients are drug users when compared to the population at large.
In Florida, the state's own data found "no direct savings" in a 2012 investigation into drug testing welfare recipients, according to The New York Times. Two years later, the ACLU found the total costs of the Florida program came to nearly $400,000.
"Drug testing of welfare recipients is not only humiliating, these programs are a flagrant waste of resources that reinforce stereotypes about poor people," ACLU spokeswoman Rana Elmir told The Detroit News when the Michigan Senate passed the bill earlier this month. "The truth is individuals on public assistance are not any more likely to use drugs than others."
The ACLU previously has called mandatory drug testing of welfare recipients "unconstitutional, scientifically unsound, fiscally irresponsible and one more way the 'war on drugs' is an unfair war on America's most vulnerable populations.
Michigan's pilot program is set to be completed by September 30, 2016.