Kentucky’s Problematic Drug Test Law: Fact Check That Status

The text of the status message below reads (sic. so much sic. ~ed.), “Kentucky just passed the best law ever.  To be on Food stamps, Medicaid, or Cash Assistance on your Children of yourself You have to pass a DRUG Test.  Now every other state should do the same.  If you agree re-post.  People that work have to take a drug test so should they.  Amen…repost if you agree.”

This “chain” Facebook status has been spreading like a cancer. Fortunately, in the grand tradition of chain letters, it’s almost entirely untrue.

Last month, HB208 was introduced to the Kentucky state legislature. Here’s what it says:

(10) (a) The cabinet shall design and implement a substance abuse screening program for adult persons receiving or seeking to receive monetary public assistance, food stamps under the federal food stamp program, or assistance under the state medical assistance program, with the screening program including periodic testing of the person’s blood or urine for the presence of controlled substances as set out in this section.

(b) An adult person shall be ineligible for public assistance if:

1. The person does not participate in the substance abuse screening program established under this section; or

2. The person tests positive in a substance abuse test administered by the program for the presence of:

a.   A schedule I controlled substance; or

b.   A schedule II – V controlled substance not prescribed for that person.

(c) The substance abuse testing component of the screening program shall be designed so as to require that testing occurs as an initial condition precedent prior to the receipt of public assistance and once for each subsequent year the adult person receives public assistance, with the person being randomly assigned a month within that year to submit to testing upon receipt of reasonable notice from the cabinet.

(d) The results of testing conducted under this subsection shall not be admissible in any criminal proceeding without the consent of the person tested.

There are a lot of problems with this. First and foremost, it’s another example of rich people trying to tell poor people how to spend their money — especially ironic since Kentucky’s newest Senator is Rand “Personal Liberties” Paul.

Second of all, even if you’re spending your entire welfare check on heroin, you still need to eat. The proposed law would make you ineligible for food stamps, which you can’t spend on drugs in the first place. Food stamps (which now often come on what looks like a debit card) can only be redeemed at grocery stores for certain foods.

Another really important issue is that this law unfairly penalizes children, elderly family members, and anyone else who relies on someone else’s public assistance to feed and clothe them. After I posted a thing about this on STFU, Conservatives, lots of readers wrote to me to say that their parents were drug addicts, and that food stamps kept them from going hungry.

Most of my readers were pretty appalled by the proposed law. I added a personal anecdote: last year, I got laid off from my job, and I was on unemployment for a few months (note: I don’t know if the proposed law includes unemployment, or if it just means welfare/SS/disability). I live in California, where we have legalized medical marijuana. I used unemployment to pay my rent and my bills, and then I bought groceries and put gas in my car. I’m pretty frugal, so I had money left over. Some of which I spent on pot.

So the proposed law is pretty unsettling to me, personally, since if it existed here I could have been ineligible for my unemployment. I started a new part-time job in September, and I was offered a fantastic full-time job on Friday. Despite smoking weed a couple times a week, I managed to remain a productive member of society. Not all of my readers saw it that way — one guy accused me of “destroying the economy” since I was “taking government money and spending it on drugs.” Cool story, bro!

Anyways. My point is that if you are receiving assistance of any kind, you should probably spend it on life essentials. If you have money left over after that, you can buy whatever the hell you want. I am so sick of hearing people policing what poor people buy. That homeless guy has a cell phone! That girl on Medicaid has new shoes!

The guy who introduced the law has since told reporters that he want to amend it so that people who fail the drug test can continue to receive assistance if they enter some kind of federally funded rehab. Great. For hardcore drug addicts, that would be fantastic. But, uh, I don’t need to go to rehab.

Which brings us to my next point: the Controlled Substances lists. In addition to marijuana (FYI: marijuana legalization is a pet issue for me, the whole prohibition industrial complex is an example of the bad kind of special-interest-coddling government. The Founding Fathers grew marijuana! Where’s your Constitution now, Rand Paul???), it includes GHB — the date rape drug. So if you got roofied, you could theoretically lose your public assistance, or be forced to go to rehab for a drug you don’t use.

This law is ten kinds of fucked up. If I could rewrite it, I would make it so that it only tested for “hard” drugs – cocaine, heroin, crack, meth, certain prescription medications not prescribed to them – and gave people who failed the test the option to go to government-funded rehab. What do you think?

BONUS!! If you see this chain status on your Newsfeed, here’s a sample response:

“Actually, a bill was introduced in Kentucky about that, but it hasn’t passed. Michigan tried to pass a similar law about ten years ago, but it  was struck down because it violated the 4th Amendment. Also, how exactly does forcing someone into homelessness help them get off drugs? Many people who receive aid have kids or other people they support – do they deserve to go hungry because their parent smokes weed?”

By STFUConservatives

Jess, the mastermind behind STFU Conservatives, is a bike-riding hippie liberal who lives in West Hollywood. Her favorite political issues are abortion, marijuana, health care, and class issues. Her favorite apolitical topics of conversation include small dogs, Diet Coke, and extensive TV viewing.

2 replies on “Kentucky’s Problematic Drug Test Law: Fact Check That Status”

Good point Re: why should the children or the elderly go hungry because of choices their parents/providers make, ie…smoking weed or using other drugs? Here’s my feel on this. The people that choose to smoke weed, use drugs are making that choice!!!! They NEED to get their priorities straight. Is it more important to pleasure my self or to feed my kids/dependents? Hmmm….afterall, if you have kids, they are your responsibility to make sure their needs are met. It’s about choices and what you CHOOSE today. So if you have to stay clean to feed your kids, you best do it!!! If you can’t, don’t have kids!!!!

What’s done is done, though, no? Once you’re a parent, you can’t unchoose, and blaming / starving kids because their parents happen to be fuckups seems like adding insult to injury.

I’m with the author of this post, though. Even addicts need to eat. My hunch would be that if food stamps and public assistance is made unavailable, they’ll just be forced to more drastic measures, such as robberies or worse.

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