Florida's Welfare Drug Tests a Flop

By McCarton Ackerman 04/18/12

Far from saving money, Florida's now-quashed welfare drug tests cost taxpayers, data shows.

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Florida governor Rick Scott Photo via

Drug testing welfare recipients and refusing assistance to anyone who tests positive is now as familiar an idea as it is controversial. But a new report that highlights the ineffectiveness of Florida's short-lived welfare testing program may make other states think twice before adopting similar measures. The findings are taken from Florida from July to October 2011: between when Governor Rick Scott signed the legislation in support of welfare drug testing, and when a federal judge blocked the law on the grounds that it violated Fourth Amendment protections against unwarranted searches.  Only 2.6% of the welfare applicants failed their drug tests—or 108 out of 4,086 in total. In addition, reimbursing the costs of the tests to welfare applicants who tested negative outweighed what the government would have disbursed to people who failed, ultimately costing the state $45,780. Georgia became the most recent state to approve welfare drug testing, and a recent USA Today report shows 23 states have considered enacting similar laws.

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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.

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