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Oklahoma Welfare Drug Screening Finds Few Violations, Wastes Tax Dollars


oklahoma marijuana welfare drug testingBy Phillip Smith

Last year, the Oklahoma legislature passed and Gov. Mary Fallin (R) signed into law a bill mandating drug screening for welfare applicants. The bill was designed to save the state money by weeding out drug users seeking Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) funds.

But the new law is finding few welfare drug users. According to the state Department of Human Services (DHS), in the first four months that the law was in effect, some 1,300 people underwent screening to see if there was reasonable suspicion they were using drugs, but only 29 were denied benefits. That is about 2.2% of those screened, a drug use level well below the national average of about 8%.

Some 340 people were deemed by the screening process to be likely drug users, but again, only 29 of them were denied benefits. That is closer to the 8% national average, but also shows that more than 90% of those determined by screening to be likely drug users were not.

And of those 29 people denied benefits, only 16 actually failed a drug test. Thirteen others simply refused to comply with demands for additional testing.

The testing and screening procedures have cost the state $74,000, according to DHS. According to the Okahoma TANF Program, the average TANF benefit is $3500 a year, meaning at most, the state will have saved about $25,000 net through the drug testing program—but only if all 29 people are denied benefits for an entire year. The law allows people denied benefits to seek them again after six months if they have completed drug treatment.

There are no figures available on how long those 29 people were denied benefits, but at best, the Oklahoma welfare drug testing programs appears to be a wash, at least when it comes to saving the state money. It’s not so easy to put a dollar value on demonizing poor people as drug addicts or humiliating them by forcing them to undergo drug testing to obtain benefits.

Article From StoptheDrugWar.org - Creative Commons Licensing - Donate


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Johnny Green


  1. aged uncle g on

    This type of legislation is just plain unconstitutional and has been blocked or temporarily restrained at least. Unlawful search – and frickin’ immoral!

  2. THX1138

    The same thing happen in Florida. It also proved to be a total waste of tax dollars. But of coarse Ricky being Ricky and his wife owning a drug testing company.(will he ever stop) He tried anyway. Now the system is ended. More money was spent than was recovered.

  3. We spend a trillion on the war on drugs, billions and billions on our prison system, many billions on foreign aid, etc,etc,etc, then we go after our poor people so we can save $3,500 a year?……. yea, i think i can see that. Lol

    Until we, as a people, are willing to stop punishing and start helping, i see no end to all of this. I dont mean just pay them off, i mean help get them back on their feet and back to having a life. Punishment just deepens the wound, deepens the disparity, makes things worse. (imo)

    Ok, some abuse the system i suppose so what do we do then? I don’t know. Some abuse every system ever invented. Is he the problem, or is it the system at fault? Again i don’t know.

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