States Push to Drug Test Welfare Recipients

by Vins
Published: Updated:

Recent legislature in several conservative-dominated states pushes to require drug tests of people receiving public assistance, through programs such as SNAP (the Supplemental Nutritional Assistance Program, formerly known as food stamps), WIC (the supplemental nutritional program for Women, Infants and Children), and TANF (Temporary Assistance for Needy Families). The governor of Michigan, Rick Snyder, has been one of the main driving forces behind this push. He has signed a series of bills that will force recipients to pass a drug tests to maintain their assistance. Other states are now using Snyder’s bills as templates in the creation of their own bills. Reporting for ThinkProgress, Katie Valentine writes that during 2014 “at least 18 states introduced proposals or addressed bills that would require some form of drug testing or screening for applicants for or recipients of public assistance.”

Proponents argue that drug testing will reduce overall costs of these programs. However, Thom Hartmann states that assistance programs are just one small aspect of government spending. He notes that Walmart, which reported revenues of $476 billion in 2013, also leads all companies with the greatest number of employees on government assistance. That year 47% of Walmart’s full-time employees sought public assistance, and they account for $2.66 billion in annual assistance expenditures. Hartmann points out government officials and members of the public who are concerned with reducing government spending on assistance programs could start by insisting that Walmart pay its employees an actual living wage.


Katie Valentine, “Michigan Governor Signs Bill Requiring Drug Testing Of Welfare Recipients,” ThinkProgress, December 28, 2014,

Thom Hartmann, “The True Costs of Corporate Welfare,” Truthout, December 30, 2014,

Student Researcher: Michael Brannon (Sonoma State University)

Faculty Evaluator: Peter Phillips (Sonoma State University)