Welfare Drug Testing Under Attack | The Fix
facebook twitter RSS
HOT TOPICS: Alcoholism  Addiction  AA  Cocaine  Heroin

Welfare Drug Testing Under Attack

A Florida law that mandates drug testing of welfare applicants faces a flurry of legal challenges.

Image: 

A way to shorten the line? Photo via

By Will Godfrey

08/23/11

| Share

A welfare drug testing law that came into force in Florida on July 1—meaning people applying for Temporary Assistance for Needy Families welfare benefits must submit urine, blood or hair samples for analysis—has spawned many would-be imitators. With Missouri set to follow in Florida's footsteps, Alabama Senator Scott Beason recently attempted to pass a similar bill in his state, one of a reported 27—including North Carolina, Arizona and Massachusetts—to have seen mainly unsuccessful efforts of this kind in the latest legislative session. Signing the Florida bill into law in May, Governor Rick Scott declared his goal was “to make sure we don’t waste taxpayers’ money. And hopefully more people will focus on not using illegal drugs.” Yet strangely enough, Scott didn't extend the policy to others who profit from the public purse, such as holders of Florida's Bright Futures scholarships, or employees of corporations receiving economic incentives. Could it be that targeting welfare recipients—and Scott's claim that they use illegal drugs more than other Americans is a contentious one—panders to taxpayers' prejudices, with little electoral risk at a time when poor voters are being eased away from the ballot box by new photo ID requirements?

The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) claimed yesterday that six weeks after the law's introduction, evidence shows it is wasting taxpayer dollars rather than saving them. No matter, say supporters of testing—this is about principles as well as cash: "We wanted to ensure that the individuals who are eligible for this benefit are using them for the true, intended purpose of this benefit [i.e. not getting loaded]," explained Department of Central Florida spokeswoman Carrie Hoeppner when confronted by the numbers. Well, legally enshrined principle may yet be the downfall of welfare drug testing. The Fourth Amendment protects "The right of the people to be secure in their persons... against unreasonable searches and seizures... and no warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause..." The ACLU has already filed a suit against Florida's law. "Mandatory drug testing presumes that all program participants are guilty until proven innocent," agreed Jim Carnes, Communications Director of the Arise Citizens’ Policy Project. A similar law in Michigan was struck down by judges in 2003 for failing to meet ''the closely guarded category of constitutionally permissible suspicionless testing.''

Rehabilitation Directories

Most Popular
The Rehab Review
Cliffside Malibu
 
 
 
 
 

The “beach-house-relaxed” Cliffside Malibu claims to provide an oasis for recovering addicts and alcoholics. And that’s just what you'll get—if you’ve got the cash.

Morningside Recovery
 
 
 
 

For a “rehab near the beach” experience that isn’t quite as costly as similar SoCal competitors, head to this Newport Beach treatment facility.

AToN Center
 
 
 
 

Whether you’re interested in the 12 Steps, SMART Recovery, or holistic treatments, this luxurious, appealing and commendable 4.5 star (our system doesn't yet show the 1/2 star) San Diego rehab has a program for you. 

Reflections
 
 
 
 

This exclusive Northern California rehab is all about client choice—as well as golf outings, Buddhist field trips and keeping up with the office.

Capo By The Sea
 
 
 
 

Capo By The Sea offers an executive rehab program complete with medical detox and a focus on dual-diagnosis issues, as well as an outpatient option in an environment that exudes the kind of beach house optimism one would expect from an Orange County recovery outfit.

Journey Malibu
 
 
 
 

Want many of the luxury amenities A-listers have come to expect—including an enormous backyard with a pool and patio, an herb garden, a volleyball net and a spectacular vista of the Santa Monica mountains—with a recovery program to match?

The Ultimate Guide to Rehab
 
 
 
 
 

What you need to know when choosing an addiction treatment center.

the fix tv