Lawmaker seeks to mandate drug tests for food stamp applicants - CBS46 News

Lawmaker seeks to mandate drug tests for food stamp applicants

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ATLANTA (CBS ATLANTA) -

Alisa Anderson says forcing low-income Georgians to pass drug tests to qualify for food stamps is a bad idea. 

"That's very unfair," said Anderson, who runs women's resources incorporated, a nonprofit that helps low-income women and their families.

"It is an insinuation that people of low income or near poverty are also drug addicts and that's very untrue," Anderson said.

A new bill in the Georgia House would mandate that people applying for food stamps pass drugs tests to qualify for benefits.

Anderson said many of her clients currently on food stamps are also elderly, disabled or ill and fears that they could be labeled as addicts and denied benefits.

"If you suffer migraines or are in constant pain, you may be on pain medication that would be considered a narcotic. These medications may come back positive for drug use," Anderson said.

Kristi Lewallen, who suffers from debilitating pain in her neck and back, cannot work. No work means little money coming in so she pays for each meal with food stamps.

Lewallen said she would have no objection taking the test herself even though she takes pain relievers similar to the ones that Anderson fears would return false positives on drug tests.

"I don't do drugs," said Lewallen who has seen too many people abuse the system.

"There are people on drugs who sell their food stamps for drugs. They'll go to their dealer and say 'I'll trade you 2-for-1,'" Lewallen said.

State Rep. Greg Morris, who introduced House Bill 772, said the measure would save the state money.

"I think it's just fairness and protecting taxpayers' dollars for folks asking for public assistance to take drugs tests. Working Georgians have to take drug tests every day to get jobs," Morris said, adding "it's the state's prerogative to look after taxpayer dollars."

Georgia law already mandates new welfare applicants pass drug tests.

The state never enforced it because of concerns it may not stand up to legal challenges.

A federal judge ruled a similar law in Florida was unconstitutional.

Page Pate, a constitutional law expert, said the new bill would have a difficult time withstanding legal challenges if it were passed into law.

Morris insisted his bill would pass constitutional muster.

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