Should Ohio require drug testing for SNAP benefits?

  • Keisha Rowe
  • Staff Writer
Dec 05, 2017
Food stamp funds are deposited onto Ohio Electronic Benefit Transfer Cards, or Ohio Direction Cards, which are accepted at many stores across the region. CORNELIUS FROLIK / STAFF

The state of Wisconsin has sparked a debate nationwide after its governor, Scott Walker, moved ahead in early December with a plan to begin ordering drug screenings for able-bodied recipients of FoodShare, the state’s version of the federal Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP).

But should a similar plan come to the Buckeye State?

Wisconsin’s plan, which was originally approved by the state’s legislature two years ago, essentially requires childless SNAP applicants to undergo a drug screening as part of the application process. Those who fail the test would not receive benefits, but would become eligible for a state-funded treatment program if they have no means to pay for it themselves.

A change.org petition started by a Chillicothe resident in 2015 garnered over 20,000 signatures in favor of requiring the drug screenings before it was closed. Ohio does not have any laws which require screenings in relation to SNAP, but a bill recently passed in the Ohio House of Representatives would require Ohio Direction Cards to bear a color photo of the named recipient or a member of their household if it becomes law. That bill is under committee review in the Ohio Senate.

Wisconsin’s plan does not come back into the spotlight without controversy. Originally, the bill sat untouched because federal rules prohibit states from tacking on additional eligibility criteria to the program. A federal appeals court blocked a similar move by Florida in 2014, stating it violated constitutional rights regarding unreasonable searches.

Walker has said the plan is a way to introduce more drug-free workers into the workforce, but opponents have said there are other ways to accomplish the goal without issuing the new requirements. Lawsuits to block the measure are expected if the new rule is implemented, provided the federal government does not step in to block it.

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