Drug Tests: Tuition grant recipients must stay off drugs

West Virginians eager to improve their prospects through community college educations may be able to get some help, courtesy of a new program. But there are strings attached, and they should remain.

Lawmakers approved a bill earlier this year to provide free tuition to Mountain State residents attending community and technical colleges under certain conditions. Gov. Jim Justice signed the measure into law, and it went into effect earlier this summer.

Those seeking the tuition grants must be 18 years of age or older. They must maintain 2.0 grade-point averages in college, and perform eight hours of community service work. They also must remain in West Virginia for at least two years after graduating, or repay the grants.

There is one more stipulation: Students receiving the grants must take and pass drug tests within 60 days of beginning each semester of college. Provisions for such testing have been developed by the state Community and Technical College System.

Testing will be for a variety of drugs, including opiates, cocaine, amphetamines — and the active ingredient in marijuana. Those testing positive for legally prescribed medications, including medicinal marijuana, will be exempted from the requirement they pass the tests.

No latitude whatsoever should be granted to those not complying with the drug test requirement. It will be surprising if a substantial number of applicants for the tuition grants do not fail the tests. That will be no surprise to West Virginians who have suffered so many years of the substance abuse crisis.

Applicants who test positive for substances to which they have become addicted should be offered help to recover, of course.

But asking that students who receive help from Mountain State taxpayers be clean of illicit drugs is not asking too much.