South Carolina’s Jobless May Face Forced Drug Testing

By McCarton Ackerman 01/11/12

Draconian proposals in an upcoming Republican battleground resemble a law struck down in Florida last year.

The measure will face fierce opposition.

A new proposal hit the South Carolina legislative floor yesterday that would require all laid-off workers to take and pass a drug test in order to receive unemployment payments. The proposal won initial approval from the a Senate panel, but is expected to be challenged by federal labor officials. “(This proposal) doesn’t send the right message,” says Sue Berkowitz, who runs a Midlands legal service for the poor. Senator Kevin Bryant (R-Anderson) who brought up the bill, holds that the drug tests are similar to the ones required for employment at many companies, and that those out of work would be reimbursed for the tests if they are found to be drug-free. South Carolina ranks among the toughest states for drug control, earning top honors in 2007 for arresting the most marijuana users. The proposal is similar to Florida’s introduction last year of mandatory drug testing for everyone applying for welfare. The law was shot down in October by an American Civil Liberties Union legal challenge.

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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.