Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Florida Law Requires Drug Testing for Welfare Recipients

Florida sets a dangerous precedent with its new law requiring welfare recipients to undergo drug testing to receive assistance.   

From Reuters.com:

"The measure makes Florida the only state to test all recipients of the federal program known as Temporary Assistance to Needy Families, according a Washington-based public policy group that says other states have chosen less obtrusive ways to monitor drug use.

The new law, a version of which was struck down by a federal court in Michigan in 2003, requires recipients to pay for the tests before qualifying for benefits and periodically after they receive them.

The law was one of Scott's campaign promises. Supporters say it will help ensure that taxpayer money is used to get families on their feet and not to fuel drug habits at state expense.

"While there are certainly legitimate needs for public assistance, it is unfair for Florida taxpayers to subsidize drug addiction," Scott said in a statement released after he signed the bill during a visit to Panama City.

"This new law will encourage personal accountability and will help to prevent the misuse of tax dollars."

Beginning July 1, recipients who test positive for drugs would be denied benefits for a year. A second failed test would result in a three-year ban.

In two-parent households, both adults would be tested. Benefits to children could be awarded to a third-party recipient, who must also pass a drug screen.

The law will not affect the federal food stamp program.

Critics, including the American Civil Liberties Union of Florida and Florida Legal Services, said they will decide in coming weeks if they plan to file suit against the law on the grounds that blanket drug tests are unconstitutional.

Federal law allows states to screen for drug use under the TANF program, which provides a maximum $300 a month cash assistance to needy families. The program, which replaced traditional welfare in the mid 1990s, has a 48-month lifetime cap on benefits.

Other states have studied the issue and decided testing all recipients was not cost effective, the Washington-based Center for Legal and Social Policy said in a study released in January.
Most states have drug assessment programs that do not include urine or blood tests. Some require drug tests from recipients who have been convicted of felony drug crimes.

During debate about the law, critics pointed to a pilot testing program in Florida that was shut down in 2001 after it showed no significant difference in drug use between welfare recipients and the population at large.

"The wasteful program created by this law subjects Floridians who are impacted by the economic downturn, as well as their families, to a humiliating search of their urine and body fluids without cause or even suspicion of drug abuse," said Howard Simon, executive director of ACLU Florida, in a statement."

While Mary does not support the use of welfare money to purchase illicit substances (who DOES?), she detests the invasion of privacy even more.  Drug use does not necessarily indicate a). addiction or b). use of taxpayer money to purchase drugs.  (Consider that marijuana stays in your system for up to a month after use, in which case sharing a joint with a friend could result in an empty cupboard for your kids weeks later.)  One frequently overlooked detail: the new law does nothing to prevent alcoholics and smokers from receiving welfare despite their collective cost to society, which is greater than that of all illicit drug users combined. 

America already requires drug testing for jobs and organ transplants.  What's next?  At this rate, we could be facing drug tests just to receive medical care, public education or worse.  I urge you not to sit idly by and wait for that day to arrive.  It may not be as far off as you think.  


Reuters: Florida To Test All Welfare Recipients for Drugs


  1. If I can work and have to pass testing to pay the welfare taxes why can’t the people who need it and are receiving it do the same? I can have my privacy invaded to keep my job and feed my family why can’t they have to do the same. If you know that sharing that joint with your friend will cost you and your family just as I know it would do the same to mine don’t hit it. It’s good for the working man its good for the needy.

  2. I totally agree with the drug testing in order to receive benefits. If I have to *iss to work THEN they should have to do the same to receive benefits. I surely hope all other states follow!!

  3. What do they have to fear...if they aren't using then they can get them.....Even 1 joint is illegal!

  4. Wow! Good to see some opposing viewpoints on this page!

    That said, I have to wholeheartedly disagree with the lot of you. While this law makes perfect sense in our current insane justice system, two wrongs don't make a right. Drug testing itself is the larger problem, and children are the ones who will suffer most from this new law. Instead of fighting for expanded drug testing, we should be fighting for our individual freedoms--in this case, the right to use our own minds and bodies in any way we damn well please. Remember: There is no "us" and "them"--we're all Americans. If you have a problem with the welfare system itself, that's an entirely different issue.

  5. This law is going to hurt what I call the "in-betweens" the most. These are the family's that just barely make ends meet and need the assistance to survive. If they can't pay the utility bills how are they supposed to pay for a drug test - even if it is reimbursed. At this point they are required to be told - if you want to avoid paying for a drug test - don't apply for benefits. So not only are they assuming that most of the recipients are drug users they are also going to end up putting the ones who need it the most in a greater state of need. A drug test is easy to manipulate. Addicts do it all the time. This law is going to do nothing but hurt the honest recipients of benefits.

  6. Re: Mary Microgram,,,,I disagree with you. There is a "us" and "them". The drug infested so called parents and the children that have no voice. If this was not a problem we would not even being here dicussing this. There are so called adults that do , do whatever they choose, that's why we have these issues in the first place.

  7. I agree that we have a problem. America has one of the worst drug problems in the world DESPITE locking up more of its citizens than any other nation. Something isn't working. However, drug use itself is not a moral issue. It only becomes immoral when people do things that actively harm others, such as abusing/neglecting their kids or stealing to fund a drug habit. We do not "drug test" or lock up alcoholics in this country--give me one reason why drug users don't deserve the same respect and I'll drop the issue.

    1. Alcohol isn't illegal.

  8. I say it is about time!!!! Why should working people, you know the ones with jobs that supports the welfare system, have to pass a drug test and people that are not contributing to the tax system gets to make use of our tax dollars to buy drugs. I say yea for the governor of Fla. Come on you other 49 states and pass this same law.

  9. Chalk up another for GOOD!! If my money is spent on drugs, I want that stupid decision to be made by ME......I believe everyone should have the right to do drugs IF they chose....as long as THEY pay for em......