Drug Testing Order Overdue

Just a few weeks ago, a local man complained in public that he attempted to hire someone to run a small store – but none of the candidates from a state jobs program was able to pass both drug and writing tests. A Northern Panhandle higher education official admitted many applicants for a vocational training program could not pass drug tests.

Surely most West Virginians who seek training and/or job opportunities through taxpayer-funded programs are not using illegal drugs. At least we hope that is the case.

Conscientious men and women who need help should not have to stand in state job applicant lines or go to class with drug users. Employers should not have to worry new hires through state programs will be hazards to their co-workers.

For those reasons, Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin was right to sign the executive order he did this week. It requires drug screenings for applicants for WorkForce West Virginia training and jobs programs.

Drug screening for those hoping to take advantage of government programs, including welfare benefits, has been suggested many times during recent years. The subject is a controversial one, with opponents insisting it is unfair to those who need help and their families.

But abuse of prescription drugs and use of illegal ones has become an epidemic in our state. Earlier this year, Tomblin told journalists hundreds of coal mining jobs in southern West Virginia could not be filled because applicants could not pass drug tests.

Some of those who have illegal or misused prescription drugs in their bloodstreams even as they apply for taxpayer-funded programs may be addicted. If so, they need to be directed to agencies and organizations that can help them.

Others are simply arrogant. They believe – and they have been right to this point – the “system” will not penalize them.

But again, they should not be on the same footing and be offered the same advantages as Mountain State residents who have never used drugs illegally or even those willing to kick the habit so they can find jobs. Here’s hoping Tomblin’s order gives those people the advantages they deserve.