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Should Kentucky Drug Test Welfare Recipients?

  • By: Andrew Easler, Esq.
  • Published: Jun, 24 2016
  • Updated: Dec, 20 2022

Given that there are already 13 states that test welfare recipients and the reports that governor candidates in Kentucky are saying that they want to institute policies that would make it happen there as well, it’s no wonder that the question continues to be a hot button issue.

The Proposed Measures

Kentucky state legislatures were first introduced to the idea of drug testing welfare recipients in 2011, with HB208. This bill followed along the same lines of other states and would have required adults to pass a drug screening once each year to continue receiving benefits. However, that proposal was never brought to a vote, but there are still government officials and hopefuls that want to see those changes enacted.

Should Kentucky Drug Test for Welfare?

This is a hot debate in nearly every state in which it has been enacted, as well as those who have legislation in the works. However, there are two sides to the issue.


Those who are for Kentucky drug testing for welfare support the idea for a few reasons. These include:

  • Drug testing will prevent those who use drugs from receiving assistance.
  • Those who do fail a drug test will be able to get the substance abuse help they need, without losing their benefits while doing so.
  • Employees and taxpayers are required to undergo drug tests, so those receiving benefits should as well.
  • It will give those using the assistance rather than looking for work the push they need to do so if they fail a test and refuse treatment.


There are also those who are against Kentucky drug testing welfare recipients. These people also have their reasoning:

  • Drug testing those who need assistance in discriminatory since most who receive the benefits are low-income.
  • It is unconstitutional to drug test people so that they can qualify for benefits that they are already entitled to receive.
  • Based on the numbers from other states, the actual number of people who receive benefits that fail drug tests is very low, with most less than one to two percent.
  • Other states are spending hundreds of thousands of dollars implementing the screening and testing processes, but are not seeing the savings in taxpayer dollars as was originally hoped.
  • Forced drug tests add shame to those who need to apply for benefits.

Other Considerations

There are plenty of valid arguments on each side of the debate over welfare drug testing in Kentucky. However, it is important to take a look at the success rates of other states who have enacted similar laws. With such a low number of people actually failing drug tests, it does make it seem as if tax dollars would be better put to use somewhere else, rather than on testing welfare applicants. Only time will tell whether the costs versus savings actually even out for other states. If so, then it may be worth Kentucky’s time to enact similar laws.

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