Drug Testing May Become Mandatory for Unemployment Benefits

Drug Testing May Become Mandatory for Unemployment Benefits

Republicans, Rep. Kevin Brady and Sen. Ted Cruz introduced a bill this week to remove an Obama administration law that regulated who would be drug tested when applying for unemployment benefits. Brady’s and Cruz’s bill focuses on removing regulations that would limit which applicants government could rightfully drug test. Obama’s regulations state that government can only drug test those who were fired for drug-related offenses in the past and those who worked in fields that already require drug testing, such as aviation, bus drivers and law enforcement. The new bill aims to make it possible for every state to determine their own set of rules when it comes to screening applicants.

The Will of the People

new bill aims to make unemployed drug testing mandatory
A new bill is aiming to make drug testing mandatory for the unemployed.

While many states would not necessarily choose to screen every applicant, there are states that will quickly move on the opportunity to make it harder for unemployed residents to receive benefits. As marijuana becomes more readily accepted across the country, the issue becomes tricky. 28 states already have a legal medical marijuana industry up and running and 8 states have legalized recreational marijuana. While marijuana usage loses its stigma and more people engage in utilizing it for medical or recreational purposes, the implementation of drug testing as a mandatory aspect of unemployment would serve to negate the freedom of those living in states where the plant has been legalized.

The Necessity for New Regulations

One of the problems Republicans face now may work to the benefit of unemployed applicants. The old Obama law was put into place by the Labor Department last August and the repeal bill was passed by the House last month. On Tuesday night, the Senate passed the bill 51-48 and it now only needs to be signed by Trump to fully succeed in passing. The issue is now that the 2012 law that allowed the Labor Department to pass the regulations also states that government will not have the authority to conduct any drug testing until a new rule or a new law is put in its place. Brady is already working on legislation to wipe out the 2012 law but it requires 60 votes in the Senate in order to pass and the repeal bill only got 51 votes. This creates a situation where the regulations that govern drug testing no longer exist and new regulations may not be able to pass.

Punishment of the Poor?

medical marijuana seems to be ignored under drug testing bill
Some are criticizing the bill as an attack on the poor who rely on the medical benefits of marijuana.

At any rate, the desire to place this kind of drug testing on all unemployment applicants seems like a means of punishing the poor and those unfortunate enough to be affected by the job crisis. Oregon Senate and opponent to the repeal bill called it “an ineffective, mean-spirited waste of taxpayer dollars.” He added, “If Republicans truly cared about helping those struggling with addiction, they would not be undertaking a full throttle repeal of the Affordable Care Act and cutting Medicaid funding for drug treatment programs.”

Known for the catch phrase “You’re fired,” it’s more than likely that Trump will sign the bill with no issues. How the situation plays out beyond this point is unknown. Even if government is given a way to expand on the drug testing options, it’s not definite that they will choose to integrate the changes. For now, it’s a waiting game.



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