July 1st marked the implementation of a drug testing law impacting welfare recipients in the state of Tennessee.

A measure that mandates drug testing as a condition for receiving welfare, which was passed by both the Senate (24-9) and the House (73-17), is among new laws that will take effect in Tennessee beginning July 1. The new legislation will require new applicants for welfare assistance to undergo a special screening process. If there is suspicion regarding the applicant after this process, the applicant will be required to undergo drug testing.

The drug testing law that is being implemented is a modified version of the original measure, which called for blanket drug testing. The modification was made in consideration of the point raised by the state attorney general, who said that blanket testing will be in violation of an applicant’s right not to be tested without suspicion.

Travonda Brown, a welfare recipient, expressed that while she agrees that the federal welfare program should not be misused, there may be consequences when people lose their benefits, among them increased crime. Brown shared: “If somebody next door to you loses their check and food stamps, what do you think they’re going to do? They still got to eat, feed their kids. You’re going to have a lot more crime.”

Sen. Stacey Campfield, who sponsored the legislation, clarified, however, that there will be a process in place to ensure that the children of welfare recipients who lose their benefits will be able to receive the care that they need. Sen. Campfield shared further: “Hopefully, this will get people who are on drugs to get the treatment they need to get off drugs.”

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