Florida Becomes First State to Drug Test Public Workers

By McCarton Ackerman 03/20/12

Rick Scott continues his controversial crusade to keep tax money from becoming drug money.

rick scott.jpg
Taxpayer money shouldn't be paid to anyone
who hasn't proven themselves drug-free—
except elected officials like himself.
Photo via

Florida Gov. Rick Scott (R) has been determined to drug test his state's residents by any means necessary. After endorsing legislation that calls for drug testing of welfare recipients—a controversial act with critics including the Daily Show—he signed a bill into law this week allowing random drug testing for public workers, making Florida the first ever state to endorse such a bill. Agency heads will now be allowed (but not required) to randomly test up to 10% of their workforce every three months for prescription drugs, illegal drugs and alcohol. Supporters of the Republican-backed measure say the bill will give workers with drug problems a chance to get clean as well as the general public from impaired public servants—though elected officials like Gov. Scott will be exempt from the testing. "Despite our constitutional legal traditions, there's always a lot to be reaped from the argument that if you haven't done anything wrong, you don't have anything to worry about," says Colin Gordon, a labor historian at the University of Iowa in Iowa City. "But it's always surprising to me how little weight the civil liberties argument has." However, there are legal hurdles that the law still has to clear, such as whether individuals can be tested in the absence of any evidence or suspicion of drug use. Although state workers in Florida are not known to have greater substance abuse problems than workers in other states, the federal Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration reports that 19 million Americans—about 15% of the total workforce—have drug or alcohol problems

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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.