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Oklahoma Governor Signs Welfare Drug Test Bill

Submitted by Phillip Smith on (Issue #735)
Drug War Issues

Oklahoma Gov. Mary Fallin (R) last Wednesday signed into law a bill, House Bill 2388, that requires welfare applicants to be screened for possible drug use and drug tested upon suspicion they are using. They would be denied benefits if they test positive. The screening requirement is designed to surmount constitutional objections to mandatory, suspicionless drug testing of public benefits applicants and recipients.

Oklahoma Gov. Mary Fallin (
In the past two years, two states, Florida and Georgia, have passed laws requiring mandatory, suspicionless drug testing of welfare applicants. The Florida law has been blocked by a federal judge's temporary order as she considers whether to declare it an unconstitutional violation of the Fourth Amendments proscription against warrantless searches. Civil liberties and civil rights advocates in Georgia have vowed similar action against the law there when it goes into effect July 1. An earlier Michigan attempt to impose suspicionless drug testing of welfare recipients was found unconstitutional by a divided federal appeals court it 2003. That ruling was not appealed.

Several other states have passed public benefits drug testing laws with a screening process to create "reasonable suspicion" that a given individual might be a drug user. Those include Arizona and Missouri last year and Utah and Tennessee this year. The Tennessee bill has yet to be signed by the governor, but he has said he will do so. None of these state laws have yet faced legal challenges.

The Oklahoma law takes effect November 1 and is aimed at adults applying for the Temporary Assistance to Needy Families (TANF) program. Applicants who refuse to take the drug test or who test positive will be denied benefits. Applicants who test positive and then undergo a drug treatment program -- at their own expense -- can reapply for benefits after six months.

Child-only cases and cases where the parent is underage would not have to be drug tested. If a parent is denied benefits, the bill allows for payments to be made to an alternative payee.

Under an amendment passed in the Senate, the state will pay for the cost of drug testing. The bill originally called for applicants to pick up the tab.

"House Bill 2388 will help ensure welfare checks are not being used to pay for drugs. Hard working taxpayers shouldn't be asked to subsidize drug abuse, and this bill will help to ensure they are not," Fallin said in a signing statement.

"Additionally, HB 2388 helps to preserve the mission of state-funded welfare -- to provide a social safety net helping the unemployed and needy get back on their feet, find work and support their families," the Republican governor continued. "Unfortunately, drug abuse prevents many recipients of welfare from achieving any of these goals. Drug addiction and illegal drug use contribute to child abuse and child neglect. They also make it difficult to find and hold a job. For all these reasons it is important for drug users and those with substance abuse problems to seek treatment rather than simply being handed a check from Oklahoma taxpayers."

Oklahoma Democrats opposed the bill, with Sen. Jim Wilson (D-Tahlequah) calling it "poor policy" and "mean-spirited" during earlier debates, and Sen. Tom Ivester (D-Sayre) questioning why only one population that receives state assistance should be subjected to drug testing. But their Republican colleagues weren't listening.

Permission to Reprint: This content is licensed under a modified Creative Commons Attribution license. Content of a purely educational nature in Drug War Chronicle appear courtesy of DRCNet Foundation, unless otherwise noted.


Thinking Clearly (not verified)

Warrantless search. No probable cause.

Supreme Court originally allowed this kind of search under some very narrowly defined terms having to do with public trust and safety (think mass transportation of passengers,etc.). This is an unwarranted invasion of privacy undertaken to enforce moral behavior. Government has crossed the line. It is destructive to the human spirit, intimidating, and expensive.

This is not a good way of regulating supply side demand for drugs. This is more like the road to slavery.

Fri, 05/18/2012 - 2:30am Permalink
William Aiken (not verified)

In reply to by Bunch of Loser… (not verified)

In the debate of drug policy it often occurs that when someone raises legitimate criticism of drug testing, some feel the compulsion to impugn the motives of the critic. I am quite certain that you BOL don't know whether the blogger you questioned uses drugs or receives welfare. Why don't you just stick with provable facts instead launching your personal attacks that are baseless and cheapen the debate. You need to be called out for your simple minded tactics. I encounter this sort of crap on talk radio when I question a prohibition policy and the next caller accuses me of being the poster boy for not legalizing drugs. You are not informed or entertaining. Just defending a stupid policy with no facts to back up your arguments. 

Sun, 05/27/2012 - 1:31pm Permalink
tomta (not verified)

In reply to by Thinking Clearly (not verified)

Drug testing of persons applying or receiving welfare payments is fair based on industry standards in the United States.  People who are receiving welfare payments are expected to spend that money on their families.  The argument that children will suffer if welfare payments are withheld are diminished when you figure that the money meant to provide food, clothing, and shelter for the child will instead go to a drug dealer for the satisfaction of the irresponsible parent.

The last corporate job I held required drug testing of all acceptable candidates for available jobs.  Fully 30% of the people who were hired contingent on passing a drug screening test.  If you can't pass a drug test for a job you don't have any business receiving welfare intended to help you through a short hard time in your life because when you do find a job you will be disqualified.

Wed, 05/23/2012 - 12:17am Permalink
cc (not verified)

In reply to by tomta (not verified)

As a person having to be drug tested at my employment what is the difference for  a person drawing money from the state to support their family being drug tested? Should a person being supported by their state also perform community service? I say if they are going to be supported by the people that do work yes. 

Thu, 01/24/2013 - 10:41pm Permalink
tomta (not verified)

In reply to by Thinking Clearly (not verified)

Drug testing of persons applying or receiving welfare payments is fair based on industry standards in the United States.  People who are receiving welfare payments are expected to spend that money on their families.  The argument that children will suffer if welfare payments are withheld is diminished when you figure that the money meant to provide food, clothing, and shelter for the child will instead go to a drug dealer for the satisfaction of the irresponsible parent.

The last corporate job I held required drug testing of all acceptable candidates for available jobs.  Fully 30% of the people who were hired contingent on passing a drug screening test failed the drug screening test.  If you can't pass a drug test for a job you don't have any business receiving welfare intended to help you through a short hard time in your life because when you do find a job you will be disqualified.

Wed, 05/23/2012 - 12:20am Permalink
Warrantless search?! (not verified)

In reply to by Thinking Clearly (not verified)

I'd agree with the warrantless search qualm if they were testing for alcohol or tobacco. They are testing for the ILLEGAL use of drugs whether illicit or prescription. If you have a prescription, you won't be denied benifits

Fri, 11/02/2012 - 11:22pm Permalink
tom watkins (not verified)

In reply to by Warrantless search?! (not verified)

How about we test you every time you want to drive your car since you will be using government roads to drive on. Just make a call  to local guv every time you want to go to the store to get some milk. Who knows what you have been doing, so lets test every time just to be sure.

Thu, 11/08/2012 - 4:48pm Permalink
Anonymousgayle (not verified)

In reply to by Thinking Clearly (not verified)

Perfect, get your hand back then! Stop asking for taxers dollars and we will stop asking that you are clean. Problem solved...get a job, ohhhhh, they want you to get a test too.....what now?????
Fri, 11/16/2012 - 3:48pm Permalink
Paul Pot (not verified)

Next there will be a law to send the people who test positive to drug reeducation camps. 

It's discriminatory laws like this that led to the death camps. 
Laws like this are the first policy of no-policy politicians. They use issues like this to cover their incompetence. While some people get rich the economy goes under and the poor get the blame for their total mismanagement.
Legalize! Apologize! Compensate!
Fri, 05/18/2012 - 4:24am Permalink
Nemo (not verified)

In reply to by Paul Pot (not verified)

Richard Miller's seminal work "Drug Warriors and Their Prey: From Police Power to Police State" pretty much lays out what has been happening these past 40 years, with an emphasis about how eerily this is following a certain script, the same kind used by fascist governments throughout history.

Step by step, one unConstitutional law at a time, one quarter-turn of the tyranny screw at a time, brick by brick, loop by loop of razor wire, the machinery of elimination is being constructed, waiting for just the right degree of public hysteria  to be unleashed. And we're getting there, unless we turn the tide and get re-legalization legislation passed.

Fri, 05/18/2012 - 10:33am Permalink
Anonymous1 (not verified)

If we're going to look for a symptom of a health problem and stop benefits until someone is no longer symptomatic, why just addiction?  How about excess sugar in the blood? (surely too much sugar is not a good use of public funding!)

Fri, 05/18/2012 - 6:19pm Permalink
Principled Pork (not verified)

Under the guise of protecting taxpayer money from possibly being spent on illegal drugs, taxpayers will have to pay for drug testing. Gee, I wonder how this Republican social welfare investment will pan out?  I doubt the bill includes a methodology for evaluating the program's net taxpayer savings.  How would an auditor measure illegal drug purchases prevented??  Finally, I wonder which campaign contributor will get that drug testing contract?   It seems morality is a great way to grow pork in Oklahoma...

Mon, 05/21/2012 - 5:43pm Permalink
MetalGoddess (not verified)

In reply to by Principled Pork (not verified)

Drug tests are very expensive and I'm pretty sure that the reason for all this hysteria about welfare recipients being drug addicts is due to someone wanting to sell drug tests to the state.  Apparently they aren't raking enough money in from all these companies that drug test their employees. 

Thu, 08/02/2012 - 1:19am Permalink

This is a touchy subject for a lot of people. There is a good case to be made though. People who work for a living have to be drug tested. So why shouldn't those who are receiving money from the government.

Tue, 05/22/2012 - 1:56pm Permalink

The difference is the word "government." The government has a lot more restrictions on it than a privately owned business. Yes, if a business wants to drug test their employees, they should go for it. There are definite performance and safety issues. But the government is forbidden from unwarranted search and seizure. This law clearly violates that part of the constitution. 

However, the idea that this is a ginormous waste of scarce resources. The very poor use drugs at a far lower rate than the population at large. Florida's version of this law is a joke. A very, very expensive joke. I'm not sure I'm willing to spend millions of taxpayer dollars so that a bunch of politicians can have a laugh.

Sun, 07/01/2012 - 6:22pm Permalink
Bunch of Loser… (not verified)

Why not test everyone that walks thru the door first. 

Post a huge sign out front that you will be doing this as well. This will cut down on the idiots that spend my money on drugs!

If you need assistance, you shouldn't be using drugs. How can you afford them?

As far as all that goes, test for nicotine too. Weed out the freeloaders! Go Gov!

Tue, 05/22/2012 - 3:52pm Permalink
joebanana (not verified)

The state will have to get a warrant for every test they require. Then a man has the right not to testify against himself, this makes the test results inadmissible. Drug tests in themselves are unconstitutional. To be fair, all state paid employee's should have to test also.

Thu, 05/24/2012 - 5:55pm Permalink
mark13 (not verified)

Political Rhetoric....and Hate Mongering Christians....What about the children who have no control over an adults addictions ? Let the children go hungry ? Hypocritical Ignorance, feeds the fire of malice, in a country laden with political zealots. Many of whom enjoy their own deviances. Taking one look at Oklahoma Gov. Mary Fallin, I form the opinion, that she herself is enjoying her prescription medications. Those droopy eyes of hers suggest as much. Or perhaps she had a couple of cocktails prior her taking her official photograph. And for the record. The number one drug being abused in America today, are prescription medications. So get off the high-horse that you hypocrites ride, and never forget the children that this Oklahoma Gov. Mary Fallin  wants to starve. You hate Mongering Christians; your arguments are feeble. And as you all say; "God is watching us". 

Sat, 05/26/2012 - 1:41am Permalink
Dianekaylin (not verified)

OKLAHOMA is a Horrible State with Criminal Officials getting away with pay offs and criminal activity.



Fri, 06/01/2012 - 1:49pm Permalink
Patriot1 (not verified)

Some people are stupid sheeple when it comes to drug testing. Yeah, go urinate in a bottle like a good little slave and maybe your master will let you lick the crumbs out of his hand! All drug testing should be banned everywhere, be it government or private sector. Workplace drug testing is especially dangerous to liberty, because of the mistaken belief of many that the Constitution applies to the government but not to private employers. So then, what happens when ALL workplaces everywhere require drug testing and you can't get a job ANYWHERE without having to piss in a bottle? Is that freedom? Is it? What about those of us who don't believe in drug testing, who have libertarian or religious beliefs against it? Are we to be left with the choice of either starving or doing something which we don't believe in, which violates our conscience? Sounds eerily like the mark of the beast in Revelation 13. No man may buy or sell without having the mark of the beast. You can't buy or sell things without money, and in order to have money you have to have a job, and in order to have a job you have to take a drug test. Sounds like a drug test is sort of a mark in itself, it marks you as either a drug (or pot) user or a non-user. Anybody who objects to this will be labeled as a drug user, even though there's no evidence to back it up. Is this what we want? To live with the illusion of safety? The world has been a dangerous place since the beginning of time. No amount of drug testing will make it any safer. To think we can create a danger-free world is a delusional fantasy. I'd rather live in a world with danger and freedom than live in a world with the illusion of safety and no freedom.  

Thu, 06/21/2012 - 6:37pm Permalink
Patriot1 (not verified)

Some sheeple believe in drug testing for "safety sensitive" positions. What are "safety sensitive" positions? Who defines what they are? Some would say they are jobs which require the use of dangerous equipment, such as construction, etc. Using this same logic then, it is a very short leap to make the argument that we are all dangerous equipment operators, because after all, most of us operate one of the most dangerous pieces of heavy equipment there is on a daily basis; the automobile. Should everybody have to take a drug test to get a drivers license? Or how about renewing it? A hypothetical scenario would probably play out something like this: Some state somewhere will probably pass a law requiring new drivers (mostly young teenage kids) to take a drug test in order to get their drivers license. The kids, being ignorant that a pre-drug test America existed, and being programmed to be non-thinking slaves by the public school system, would blindly obey such a tyrannical law without question. Soon, other states would follow suit and it would be like that in all 50 states. Nobody would dare oppose it because we must all be good citizens and do our part to ensure a "drug-free public roads system" or some nonsense like that. Of course they would tell the rest of us not to worry, because the drug tests are for new drivers only. But we know how that works. The next step would be to drug test everybody every time they renew their drivers license, usually every four years, but that it would apply only to those who have been driving for ten years or less. From there it would expand to EVERYBODY who renews their drivers license, no matter how long they have been driving. It wouldn't matter if a person has been driving 30 to 40 years with an unblemished driving record because collectivism makes no such distinction, it punishes the innocent along with the guilty. Of course there would be exemptions for certain people, mainly the politicians who make the laws and other ruling class wealthy elites. Then they will find yet another problem to use as justification to expand their police state even more; certain people will stay clean for a period of time, long enough to pass their drug test and get their license renewed. Once they do, they will resume smoking their weed, so there will STILL be people driving who have marijuana in their system. The solution will be obvious; random drug testing for ALL licensed drivers. Each citizen will now live in fear, knowing that at any time, they may receive a notice in their mail from the state DOT ordering them to report to the nearest licensing center for a random drug test within the next   24 hours. Failure to comply will mean an automatic revocation of their drivers license, as will a failed drug test. Some people will then use the defense that they never received such a notice in the mail, so the next step would be for the police to come to you house ordering you to take a piss test. And who would be behind all of this? The drug testing industry, run by the corporate elites and the politicians who are of course exempt from the draconian laws they pass on the rest of us serfs. They get richer and we get poorer. The drug testing industry is an ever expanding parasite that feeds off the blood of the people, slowly sucking the lifeblood out of our freedoms and our Constitution. This is how tyrants work. Mark my words folks, this is what is coming unless we stand up and just say NO to ALL drug testing EVERYWHERE. Once you allow tyrants to get their foot in the door they will not stop until they have totally robbed us of our freedom and created a totalitarian Orwellian police state. Give them just once inch and they'll take a foot. It's time we put them out of business and throw these criminals in jail where they belong. 

Fri, 06/22/2012 - 2:46am Permalink

People on welfare can't afford drugs. They use drugs at a FAR lower rate than the population. Florida's drug testing program has been money down a rat hole. And now Oklahoma plans to pour money down the same rat hole for no reason other than "hey, we're mean and tough!" You'd think they would be cruel to poor people in more cost-efficient ways.

Sun, 07/01/2012 - 6:12pm Permalink
cantrell (not verified)

I agree with the drug testing. I am looking at applying for tanf this week while I go back to votech to learn a new job skill. I am not a drug user nor am I worried about being suspected of using drugs. I feel that if I am expected to pass a drug test to work for a company, then I should also pass a drug test to goto school or to receive tanf. I have been in some of the larger DHS offices many times in the past for either food benefits or day care assistance, and too often I have seen people who are in there for getting tanf who are obviously using drugs. If a drug test causes those people to loose their cash benefits then that is the best thing for the kids. The kids of users or more at risk from getting hurt then if their parents weren't using. Maybe getting denied tanf will finally be their wakeup call to get clean.

And for those who feel its a violation of our privacy rights, they aren't testing for alcohol, they are testing for ILLEGAL DRUGS. If it was against our privacy rights, then officers wouldn't be allowed to search our vehicles if they suspect the driver of using drugs.
Wed, 08/15/2012 - 9:25pm Permalink
Finney (not verified)

So I have been reading through some of the so called responses which seem more like rebukes to the new Oklahoma State Law.  So you think that you should receive welfare and be on drugs?  I look around at the government housing additions and you see brand new vehicles that cost in the upwards of $30,000 or more.  But you live in government housing, using food stamps, a free cell phone because you are on food stamps, and medical assistance for the children you have had by a father that won't marry you so that you can still get assistance and even though he is not supposed to live with you he seems spends the night pretty frequently and neither the woman or the man have jobs.  I was a mother of two who was divorced making 7.35 and hour, not receiving child support and I could have very easily applied for assistance to help pay my families way.  However i had to get a better paying job and yes that required a drug test and offered me all the same benefits the welfare recipients are receiving so why should they not be drug tested?  Even though we are a democracy even the troops that defend you very people who are fighting this law have to pass drug tests and they don't only have a pre-employment drug test they are tested randomly to ensure that they are at the top of their game to be sharp as a tack when they are called upon. 

As an employee of any company, government or industry you should be on the top of the game to preform your work everyday.  As a welfare applicant you should want to do better some of these posts imply that poor people are not lazy they just don't know how to take advantage of opportunities presented to them.  So are they being implied to be so stupid they can't help themselves?  I don't even know how you can say that they can't take advantage of opportunities they are presented if they have applied for assistance they have taken advantage of and opportunity.  Now why not get the opportunity of learning a trade at the cost of the state also through a program which would be an opportunity?  Are they not smart enough to learn how to fish for themselves?  I have to say to Governor Mary Fallin good job and thank you for making such a strong and assertive law come to reality.  A big high five!

Sat, 11/03/2012 - 6:58pm Permalink
Joanne (not verified)

I live in the Boston area and let me say I know countless drug addicts look forward to their public assistance checks weekly, monthly. They all round up, rent a hotel room, and get nice and high on the tax payers dollar. Being familiar with substance abuse, we are enabling these individuals and once the enabling is stopped, many do seek help! In addition, how unconstitutional is this? Many employers require drug screening prior to hiring and some insurance companies require drug screening in hazardous areas. And I don't believe this is unconstitutional if both parties agree, for example walk into a court house and you are subject to search.  If you chose not to be searched "you walk out."  I'm willing to help anyone, but I will not contribute to their self destruction.  Just sayin!  Thanks

Wed, 11/07/2012 - 1:58am Permalink
Joy510 (not verified)

Although I am not against this bill in general. The problem arises when some more dangerous drugs such as METH and Cocaine, or Herorine only stay in your system for a few days at most, while HARMLESS drugs like marajuana can stay for up to a whole month or more. In my opinion, if any illegal drug that is "mind alternating" should might as well include alcohol (which kills far more ppl than any above). Nicotine shoudnt be included..but for those who are complaining about illegal drugs being expenive...well a pack of ciggs is surely as well, but you cannot deny someone of a drug that is legal. So what now? Most marajuna users are responsible. They use it like alchohol or to wine down, or anxiety/medication issues. Yet that lingers in your system. Which means heavy meth waked out people will run amok, using meth, while working because unfairly...the more stronger/hardcore drugs leave your system quie faster than all of non dangerous drug (weed). So what then happens? You have ppl denied because of an ocassional joint vs employedwacked out people getting paid. Sigh...its a lose/lose situation. Not to mention pharma drugs who continue to kill people everyday. Yet those are haded out like candy. And what happens when mistakes are made? What is someone ate a poppyseed bagel the day before nd it shows up as heroine in the drug test?
Wed, 11/07/2012 - 4:05pm Permalink
Vicki M. (not verified)

Wow.  Some of these comments are just killing me!  If you cannot pass a drug test you should not get public assistance.  Period. 

As for the comment about kids going hungry because their parent states in the article (quote) "Child-only cases and cases where the parent is underage would not have to be drug tested. If a parent is denied benefits, the bill allows for payments to be made to an alternative payee." 

So, it's your right to do drugs and not be accountable for that?  Fine, go right ahead, on your own dime.  If you want assistance, pee in the cup.  Drug tests are not that expensive any longer.  Government pisses away enough money on more foolish things than this. 

You don't want to go through the red tape the government has then go get food at the local food bank. 

Wed, 11/07/2012 - 7:51pm Permalink

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