BWelfare and other Public

The CCLE is also concerned that future recipients of public assistance may be threatened with compulsory pharmacotherapy as a condition to receiving benefits. Although studies indicate that welfare recipients do not use drugs in any greater percentage than working people,96 the stereotype of "drug-using welfare recipients" is widespread and has resulted in increased government control and denial of certain benefits.

Users of illegal drugs, for example, are excluded from the Fair Housing Act. Public housing can be denied to any person who has been convicted of a felony drug offense or who is known to currently use illegal drugs, even if they are in a drug treatment program.97

Federal law imposes a lifetime bar on any individual convicted of a drug felony charge from receiving food stamps.98 People convicted of drug felonies are also barred from voting. The Washington Post reported in 1997 that 1.46 million black men out of a total voting population of 10.4 million have lost their right to vote due to felony convictions.99

In 1996, Congress ended the federal welfare system as a cash assistance entitlement program. Under the new Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act of 1996 (PRWORA), cash assistance for individuals is now limited and can be conditioned on meeting job-seeking requirements and adhering to personal responsibility codes.100 One provision of the new act authorizes states to impose mandatory drug testing as a prerequisite to receiving state assistance.101 As a result, Louisiana passed a law in 1997 requiring drug testing for welfare recipients and certain public employees. (A task force subsequently decided to limit testing to only those applicants who indicated on a questionnaire that they use illegal drugs). In 1998, Florida implemented a similar system. New Jersey, Minnesota, South Carolina and Wisconsin also randomly drug test welfare recipients with felony drug convictions.102

In 1999 Michigan legislators passed a law conditioning public assistance on passing a random drug test.103 It was quickly struck down by a federal court, which ruled that the law's suspicionless drug testing provisions were an unconstitutional infringement on aid recipients' Fourth Amendment rights.104

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