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Sober Nation

Putting Recovery On The Map

05-23-13 | By

Judge Rejects Drug Testing for Welfare Applicants

A hot button issue as of late has been whether or not to require drug screening as part of the application process for those seeking public assistance. Actually, this has been an ongoing debate for past couple of years. Some states have already attempted to pass legislation requiring the use of drug screening.

rick scott
Rick Scott of Florida attempts to implicate drug testing for welfare recipients

Some of you may have seen posts like this one found on Facebook:

Only 49 more states to go! Hooray for Florida !

I-95 and I-75 will be jammed for the next month or so with druggies and deadbeats heading North out of Florida , because this is the first state in the union to require drug testing to receive welfare!

Hooray for Florida ! In signing the new law, Republican Gov. Rick Scott said, “If Floridians want welfare, they better make sure they are drug-free.”

Applicants must pay for the drug test, but are reimbursed if they test drug-free. Applicants who test positive for illicit substances, won’t be eligible for the funds for a year, or until they undergo treatment. Those who fail a second time will be banned from receiving funds for three years!

Naturally, a few people are crying this is unconstitutional.

How is this unconstitutional? It’s a legal requirement that every person applying for a job has to pass drug tests in order to get the job, why not those who receive welfare?

Forward this if you agree!

Let’s get welfare back to the ones who need it, not to those who won’t get a job.


In fact, this is not completely true. Back in July of 2011, Florida did in fact require applicants for the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families program (TANF) to take drug tests. However, in October of 2011, a federal judge issued a temporary injunction blocking Florida’s drug-testing law for welfare recipients, stating that the state must provide an argument for “special needs” in order for the law to be passed. It was the judge’s finding that that had not been done sufficiently and that, moreover, it is unconstitutional to impose such a law according the the Fourth Amendment which addresses unlawful search and seizure of citizens. Furthermore, the judge stated that, if welfare recipients are to be subject to drug screening, then so shall recipients of ALL forms of federal assistance (i.e. Medicare, Food Stamps, and so on). Therefore, this would be quite an extensive endeavor.

Arguments for such a law often mirror the sentiments of Gov. Rick Scott, that it is “unfair for Florida taxpayers to subsidize drug addiction.” However, based on trials to drug screen TANF recipients in July, only 2% tested positive for drugs. As outlined in that law, the state has to reimburse the remaining 98% for the cost of their drug screens. So, the argument here is: Is this cost-effective after finding that the great majority of recipients of a public assistance program are indeed not using illicit drugs.

Another important question besides the “who” is the “how.” How to enforce such a law, if it was to be passed? What about prescription drugs, such as pain killers, which are a type of narcotic; that can be abused but could also be legitimately prescribed?
What about the children of those who test positive? Welfare is mostly used by families that involve children.

Legislators are re-thinking their initial requests, reworking the requirement so that those who test positive for drugs are given the chance to receive treatment and can also transfer their benefits to a guardian so that their children can continue to receive aid.

Other states and precedents:Kentucky has merely proposed such a bill but has yet to vote on it. Missouri and Oklahoma have legislation in place to allow for drug testing but only if there is reasonable suspicion. Back in 1999, Michigan had implemented a similar law for random drug screening of its public assistance recipients but that law was later halted after a federal court ruled that it was in violation of the Fourth Amendment.

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