Another Conservative State, Another Failed Drug Testing Program

By McCarton Ackerman 06/05/14

Georgia's plan to drug test food stamp recipients was rejected by the feds. But will they go the full Don Quixote like Florida's Gov. Rick Scott?

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Georgia’s plans to drug test food stamp recipients have been shut down by federal authorities, citing legal violations that make it impossible for the program to move forward.

Gov. Nathan Deal had signed a law last April which would require the state to drug test any food stamp applicants starting in 2016. But the U.S. Department of Agriculture has ruled that states cannot create new eligibility rules for the Supplemental Nutritional Assistance Program (SNAP). Regional USDA administrator Robin Bailey noted that "Requiring SNAP applicants and recipients to pass a drug test in order to receive benefits would constitute an additional condition of eligibility, and therefore, is not allowable under law.”

Republicans had unsuccessfully attempted last year to give individual states the power to drug test SNAP applicants, but it was rejected by the courts. Some forms of drug testing are allowed for the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families program (TANF), but those are based on instances of suspected drug use rather than a broad overall mandate. Georgia lawmakers had approved a broader drug-testing law related to TANF in 2012, but It was never implemented due to constitutional concerns.

Meanwhile, Florida Gov. Rick Scott was exposed earlier this month for spending nearly $400,000 in taxpayer money to challenge his welfare testing program being deemed unconstitutional. Shalini Goel Agarwal, staff attorney for the ACLU in Florida, called Scott’s efforts “a costly and embarrassing boondoggle for Floridians.” Despite this, however, Scott’s spokesman John Tupps said the governor “will continue to fight for Florida taxpayers, who deserve a drug-free state workforce, and for Florida’s children, who deserve to live in drug-free homes.”

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McCarton Ackerman is a freelance writer and editor living in Portland, Oregon. He has been a contributor for The Fix since October 2011, writing on a wide range of topics ranging from medical marijuana in Colorado to the world's sexiest drug smugglers. Follow him on Linkedin and Twitter.