DRUGS IN THE COUNTRY: Struggling Poor Must Pay for Own Drug Tests in Order to Receive Benefits

I recently signed my child up for a community chorus, and they insisted that payment be debited automatically from my checking account each month instead of paying by check like I usually do for my kids’ classes.  Then, on top of that, they charged another fee for the electronic setup of a system I didn’t want in the first place.

I thought that was bad, but poor people seeking welfare in the state of Florida are not only being forced to submit to drug tests first, they have to pay $50 for the test themselves!  Similar measures have been passed in Arizona, Indiana and Missouri, and plans for compulsory drug testing is in the works in most of the other 50 states. The vast majority of the failures have been due to the presence of marijuana, currently a schedule one drug that desperately needs declassification as there is ample evidence it is nowhere near as toxic as heroin and cocaine.  In fact, some people don’t realize that marijuana has medicinal benefits.

The upside is that the test is a deterrent to anyone seeking benefits, so the state saves money.  Wait, is that an upside?  The downside is that the American population is swiftly being stripped of its civil liberties.  To fly on a plane, you have to submit to a full x-ray; now to receive unemployment, you need to provide a urine sample.  As Bill Boyarsky points out in a recent Truthdig piece,

“What struck me was the way life can go on in a police state [like China] when people are much more preoccupied with business success and—for many more—economic survival than with civil liberties…a similar unconcern is gripping the United States. Like the Chinese, we are going about our lives apparently indifferent to a loss of civil liberties under Presidents George W. Bush and Barack Obama.”

What strikes me is that if someone has only $50 for food or a drug test, which is a better use of that impoverished person’s money?  It’s hard not to see this whole operation as not only an attempt to control the population, but primarily as a money-making scheme for the drug test peddlers.  And of course, anything about drugs grabs headlines and distracts us from attending to the crisis we now face – the greatest economic downturn since the Great Depression.  So despite increasing materialism and attention to the bottom line, America and Americans are broker than ever.

Sadly, it’s not just the state that wants your urine, it’s employers and now schools too.  At Linn State Technical, incoming freshmen are required to submit to a drug test upon matriculation. School officials insist this isn’t meant to be punitive, but instead to teach students that drug tests will be required in their future professional endeavors, which I guess include attending college.  The peeps running Linn State are apparently unfamiliar with Hegel.

Boyarsky argues that we accept the invasion of privacy in exchange for security and financial well-being.  Is that true? Are we really afraid that potsmokers are bringing the country down? (I know my sister is, but she’s biased against me for stealing her clothes when we were little.)

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