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Critics Slam Walker’s Legal Push For Food Stamp Drug Testing

Similar Laws In Five Other States Currently Held Up In Court Challenges


Opponents of Gov. Scott Walker’s effort to win federal approval for drug testing food stamp recipients are speaking out against a lawsuit filed by the state Department of Justice Tuesday.

The suit calls on federal officials to grant the state authority to screen food stamp applicants between the ages of 18 and 49 and test them for drug use. Current federal law bars states from imposing additional requirements for food stamps beyond the income requirements already in place.

Sherrie Tussler of the Milwaukee Hunger Task Force said she believes such tests are unconstitutional.

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“You can’t take broad classes of people and call them drug users and then demand that, in order to receive equal treatment under the law, that they subject themselves to a drug test,” Tussler said. “Just because people are on food stamps doesn’t mean that they’re addicted to drugs.”

State officials argue that applicants testing positive for drugs will be given access to treatment and job training. Five other states have passed similar laws and all of them have faced legal challenges.

According to the National Council of State Legislatures, 17 states have passed laws requiring some form of drug testing for people receiving welfare and, in some cases, Medicaid benefits. A federal court recently struck down a drug testing law in Florida.

Sherrie Tussler said the Wisconsin law would use a questionnaire to screen applicants before requiring the drug test. She says there are six questions “that ask things like, ‘Is anyone annoyed by your alcohol or drug use? Has your family got a history of alcohol or drug use ? Do you sometimes feel guilty about your alcohol or drug use?’ And if you answer yes to any of those questions, you would be subject to a drug test.”

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