State Republicans Push Drug Test Requirement for Welfare

Test program would be active in three counties for two years

May 16, 2012 at 2:48 pm

In a move that is now being contested by Democrats, Republicans have pushed for a pilot program to make drug testing a requirement for welfare recipients.

The program will be active in three counties for two years. It would require anyone suspected of using drugs to submit to and pay for a drug test. Those who pass would be reimbursed for the drug test, and those who fail would not get welfare benefits for at least six months.

Republicans claimed the move will save the state money.

A drug testing program in Florida actually cost the state money. In Florida, the state government’s program had a net loss of $45,780 after it reimbursed all falsely accused welfare recipients of their drug tests. Only 108 people out of the 4,086 accused, or 2.9 percent, tested positive, and most tested positive for marijuana, according to The Miami Herald.

One Senate Democrat told The Columbus Dispatch that if welfare recipients are to be tested, so should corporations that receive public funds because there is “no evidence” that poor people have higher rates of drug abuse.

That claim is supported by the limited research in the area. One study by California’s Healthy Kids Survey in 2007 found affluent kids have higher rates of drug use than poor kids. Another study by the National Institutes of Health in 1996 found that welfare recipients are not more likely to do drugs than the rest of the population and non-welfare recipients.

The ACLU sued Florida over its program in September, leading to a temporary stop on drug testing. The organization has repeatedly argued drug-testing laws violate the Fourth Amendment, which protects all citizens against “unreasonable searches.”

Another drug-testing law in Michigan was struck down by the courts in 2003.

But states have not been fazed by questions of constitutionality. Dozens of states have introduced legislation requiring drug testing in the past year, and a drug-testing law was passed in Georgia in April.

Correction: This story originally stated that the ACLU sued Florida in October. The ACLU actually sued in September.