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The statistics show that applicants actually test positive at a lower rate than the drug use of the general population. In these states, however, the rate of positive drug tests to total welfare applicants ranges from 0.002 percent to 8.3 percent, but all except one have a rate below 1 percent.

“It was part of the work assessment,” she explained, “what are your barriers to work, what do you need in order to get a job.” If it was a barrier to employment, states could try to help them get what they needed to overcome it.

“If people are afraid they’ll lose their benefits if they admit to using drugs, it makes it hard for them to say, ‘Hey, actually I have this issue,’” she explained.

A study of Florida’s program, which has since been struck down by the courts, found that it didn’t produce any reliable estimates of drug use among welfare recipients.

As state legislatures convene across the country, proposals keep cropping up to drug test applicants to the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) program, or welfare.

Bills have been introduced so far in Montana, Texas, and West Virginia, with a handful of others also considering such a move. Scott Walker (R) has gone further, proposing to drug test applicants for food stamps and unemployment benefits.

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