With a stroke of the governor’s pen, Georgia has become the latest state in the union to require drug screening as a prerequisite for accessing benefits under certain social programs.
The idea itself isn’t new, it’s been debated for decades and other states have passed similar laws, but what caught my eye was the ACLU’s assertion (and no doubt imminent lawsuit) claiming the law is unconstitutional:
Under the law set to take effect on July 1, applicants who fail a drug test will become ineligible to receive benefits for a certain time period, based on the number of past test failures.
The measure will not affect benefits for children. If a parent fails a drug test, children can still receive payments through another person designated by the state.
The American Civil Liberties Union of Georgia opposed the drug-testing requirement and believes it is unconstitutional, Executive Director Debbie Seagraves said on Tuesday. There is no evidence that welfare recipients are any more likely than other groups to use illegal drugs, she said.
“You’re taking a group of people and basically profiling them,” Seagraves said.
She would not say whether the ACLU plans to sue, but previously she has predicted a lengthy court fight if the measure became law.
The idea that this is some sort of discrimination is ludicrous. There is no specific demographic being singled out here other than people who are applying for government benefits. Those people must prove that their sober. What’s so bad about that?
What’s left unstated here, I think, is the assumption that people have a right to live at the expense of other people. That’s not how it works. We can debate about social programs as policy, but as a practical matter if you’re going to make yourself dependent on someone else that someone else has every right to put conditions on their aid.
We don’t have to provide this aid. We do it because, as a society, we’ve decided to provide it. And, as a society, we can put whatever conditions on it we want.