Editorial: Traffic, treatment, stalemate | CraigDailyPress.com

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Editorial: Traffic, treatment, stalemate

Editorial board members:

• Al Cashion

— Community representative

• Alisa Corey

— Community representative

• Bryce Jacobson

— Newspaper representative

• Jerry Martin

— Newspaper representative

• Dave Pike

— Community representative

• Joshua Roberts

— Newspaper representative

Our View

A bill that recently died in the state legislature proposed mandatory drug testing for welfare recipients. The editorial board went looking for a general consensus to the proposal and fell far short. The board’s failure to find common ground on this issue isn’t surprising. After all, when it comes to reforming government programs and drug policy, who has the right answers?

It should be noted from the outset this opinion piece is a rarity for the editorial board — it's one of the few topics on which the board, under numerous and varied lineups over the years, failed to reach a consensus.

The editorial board is designed to include a diverse cross-section of people, or as diverse as we can make it, and any Craig or Moffat County resident is eligible to participate.

Given this random sampling of different occupations and backgrounds, the board can be viewed as a metric of popular opinion — not a scientific one, certainly, but one whose stance on a subject is generally in the ballpark of the majority's belief.

This is perhaps why we failed, and it's not surprising.

The topic we tried to form an opinion is a mixture of a broken government program and a scattered, ineffective approach to illegal drug policy. Which, when you think about, summarizes most government programs, and most of our country's approach to the so-called drug war.

The news hook for the board's discussion was a bill in the state legislature, House Bill 1046 sponsored by Rep. Jerry Sonenberg, R-Sterling, that proposed mandatory drug-testing for welfare recipients, a measure that's been implemented in other states to, at best, mixed success.

Some comments from board members on both sides of the issue:

Those in favor of the bill:

• "I don't know where we, as a society, ever got the idea that we are entitled to a free handout from the government. No, it's not an easy life, but that should be motivation to get off your (deleted) and get a job. When you have nothing to fall back on (welfare check), it's amazing how resourceful people have to become. It's just like a teenage kid (who) is cutoff by their parents — the kid is reliant upon that allowance and when it stops, what do they do? They grow up and get a job.

"Why shouldn't welfare recipients be drug tested? If you're not doing anything wrong, what's the problem? If they have money to buy drugs then they have money to support themselves. Why should the government carry the burden of supporting drug addicts? Why should I work while they sit at home and reap the benefits of my hard work?"

• "The idea is that if you can't support yourself, you are looking for government funding, then there are a few things that you need to do in order to 'earn' that and one way is to have a plan toward self-sufficiency."

• "For me, it's pretty simple: You have to pass a drug test for the government and most other jobs, too. Why shouldn't people essentially getting a handout be held to the same standard? In addition, drug testing would be a good way to keep people from living off welfare while not attempting to find work."

Those against:

• "Testing recipients won't do any good, especially since we're trying to target addicts. Cutting off the funding stream isn't going to prompt an addict to get clean, and those drug addicts are going to find other avenues to get money for their addiction through crime — robbery, theft, burglary, prostitution, etc.

"If we're talking about something that advocates for testing and mandatory treatment upon dirty tests, then fine, I can live with that because it actually addresses the problem and through the correct avenue — treatment. Otherwise, the proposal of testing recipients seems ineffective, and like a cheap, trumped up idea designed to score conservative votes and political points in an election season."

• "This policy appears to be stereotyping welfare recipients into a group of drug addicts. In addition, it goes overboard in its' testing. Typically, when people get offered a job, they have to do a drug screen before they are hired. After that, the drug tests quit in most cases. To my knowledge, the welfare recipients would have had to continue getting tested.

"Maybe a pre-screening would be in order, but continued testing seems overkill to me."

And finally, one editorial board member had the unique position of being against both sides of the issue:

• "There are two guaranteed ways to deal with drugs and welfare. Legalize the one and don't do the other. Anything other than these two purist choices leaves you in a nightmare bog of inescapable logic loops that cannot be solved because the ultimate questions have not been answered logically."

Read those quotes and it's easy to see how all hope was lost on finding middle ground, consensus or even areas of compromise.

So, we're chalking this topic up to one that obviously needs more attention, careful research and discussion before changes can be made to our government programs and policies.

It's no secret reform is needed for a myriad of government programs and especially the war that isn't really a war at all on drugs.

Can we do better? Absolutely. Is it possible? No doubt.

The real question to this vexing issue emblematic of bigger problems is, how?

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