Last week, Georgia’s legislature passed a law that would mandate drug testing the state’s 2 million food stamp recipients. The idea behind the law is that drug abusers should be denied access to food stamps, forcing many to chose between their habit and survival.
In a statement earlier this year, the bill’s sponsor, Rep. Greg Morris, said,
“Hard working Georgians expect their tax dollars to be used responsibly and efficiently. Under no circumstance should the government fund someone’s drug habit.”
Yesterday, Slate‘s Jamelle Bouie penned an opinion piece on the new law. He explains that the drug testing deprives the addicted poor of their last connection to recovery.
“Among the purposes of the American social safety net is to prevent destitution and reduce the various harms associated with living in poverty. You don’t have to approve of their behavior to see that excluding drug users is counterproductive to that goal. If there’s a ‘right’ approach, it isn’t to screen drug users out of the system; it’s to use drug tests to connect them with other services. In a sense, you want the government to fund someone’s drug habit, with strings attached.”
Bouie recommends mandatory drug counseling and treatment as a possible government-provided solution. But the question remains: is it the government’s job to mandate treatment for drug users?
Government assistance through food stamps assumes provisions for struggling, hard-working individuals who are not making enough money to provide for themselves and their families, or totally unemployed.
In this scenario, recipients are working to become self sustaining.
But in Bouie’s imagined future, the government should also be responsible for programs funding drug rehab, removing users from substances that are illegal in the first place. If the government is aware that a food stamp recipient is a meth user, is it not their obligation to prosecute the user?
“‘But I don’t want my hard-earned tax dollars to go to lazy drug users!’ says some commenter I just made up. That’s fair enough. I don’t want a quarter of my tax bill to go to the national security state. But what you or I want is less important than what we need. And in this case, just as we need a military and its associated bureaucracy, we need a more humane approach to public assistance and drug use. This is one way to do it, and a pretty good one.”
Should states mandate drug testing or provide aid for addicts? Let us know in the comments.