By Habit 420
Oregon Cannabis Connection
In 2012, a bi-partisan compromise was reached that allowed testing of people on unemployment benefits only if they lost their job for drug-related reasons or if they are applying for certain high risk jobs as defined by the Department of Labor. The vote taken on Tuesday, March 14th, that would repeal the Department of Labor rule this statute relies upon and would create “bedlam” for states according to Oregon Senator Ron Wyden.
“It simply vilifies unemployed workers who are actually less likely to use drugs than the general population…There isn’t evidence that unemployed insurance recipients use drugs any more frequently than the general population. In fact, studies actually indicate that they are less likely to use illegal drugs than the general population,” Ron Wyden explained on the floor of the Senate.
“For states that have implemented drug testing policies, there’s evidence that the costs dwarf the potential savings,” the fourth term Oregon Senator explained further.
There are a number of studies and an analysis by Think Progress in 2015 showed that seven states that dabbled in unemployment drug testing, they have wasted a lot of time and money. Think Progress reported:
“The statistics show that applicants actually test positive at a lower rate than the drug use of the general population. The national drug use rate is 9.4 percent. In these states, however, the rate of positive drug tests to total welfare applicants ranges from 0.002 percent to 8.3 percent, but all except one have a rate below 1 percent. Meanwhile, they’ve collectively spent nearly $1 million on the effort, and millions more may have to be spent in coming years.”
Wyden also explained that drug testing without a proper suspicion of use is not legal. There have been cases where testing in this way has been found to be unconstitutional.
“The fact is the courts have ruled that suspicionless drug testing violates the fourth amendment’s protection against unreasonable searches and seizures,” he explained. “Is the drug testing crusade going to turn next to social security and medicare recipients as an excuse to deny seniors benefits that they have earned.”
He also believes it will have a major negative impact on the larger drug problem facing Americans. He hammers the proposal and the Republican’s for introducing legislation of this kind.
“It slashes the health care safety net, and in my view it would inflame the epidemic of drug abuse deaths across the country. Now, at the same time there’s this partisan effort to slash funding for addiction treatment. Republicans have dredged up an old head scratcher of an argument that drug testing Americans and denying them earned benefits somehow just magically helps to overcome addiction.”
In a weird twist, by eliminating the Labor Department rule, they would be eliminating the few occupations for which they are currently allowed to test.
“The rule that is on the books now says that the states can drug test those individuals because they are applying for work in occupations that require drug testing,” Wyden explained. “Now, as far as i can tell, my colleagues on the other side of the aisle want to eliminate the rule that define those occupations. So states would be blocked from performing any occupation-based drug testing for unemployment recipients.”
“My view is this is is an ill-conceived campaign against working people built on a completely false premise,” Wyden finished.
View his speech on the Senate floor on C-Span below: