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Utah Senator Orrin Hatch has proposed a legislation which would require the unemployed and individuals receiving government assistance to undergo mandatory drug testing. 

Hatch said that the goal is to get users into treatment and that the test would be paid for with money saved by not paying benefits.

This isn’t the first time that an idea like this has been tested.  Harold Pollack, a Professor of Social Service Administration at the University of Chicago, has studied the issue closely and explains that this type of screening isn’t the best method.  He uses an example from a project in Michigan. 

A decade ago Michigan implemented mandatory testing in three welfare offices. Out of 258 new and continuing applicants tested, 21 tested positive for drugs. All but three of these women tested positive for marijuana only.

“ Due to the results of this testing, few states have been chosen to pursue similar efforts”, says Pollack.  This is due to the fact that medical marijuana is legal for several states, which would allow drug testing to reprimand patients for following their doctor’s orders.

When asked if the legislation should apply to members of Congress, Hatch was doubtful at first-claiming that “no member of congress he knows gets welfare,” but later claimed that he has no objection to adding members of congress to the program.

“We’re not trying to hurt anybody. What we want to do is get it so that federal dollars aren’t going for drugs”, says Hatch.

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