New report: Mandatory drug testing of Work First applicants would be a big mistake

Just released:sb594

Mandatory drug testing of Work First applicants, recipients would be costly, ineffective, and likely illegal
New report finds universal drug testing could cost North Carolina as much as $2.3 million

RALEIGH (April 22, 2013) — North Carolina lawmakers are currently pursuing legislation that would require mandatory drug testing of all Work First applicants and recipients. Such actions would be costly, likely illegal, and ineffective at identifying and treating drug abuse, a new report finds.

North Carolina’s Work First program assists extremely low-income families in getting on the path to self-sufficiency. Suspicionless mandatory drug testing for Work First families, as proposed by Senate Bill 594, would place additional financial burdens on struggling families who receive assistance, not to mention the whole of North Carolina, according to a new report from the North Carolina Justice Center.

Research shows the proportion of welfare recipients with drug abuse problems is low, the report said, meaning that the state would have to reimburse the vast majority of applicants and recipients for the costs of their drug tests. In Florida, the one state that recently implemented testing of all applicants, only 2.6 percent of applicants failed the drug testing during the four months of the state’s mandatory drug testing program (the program was halted on constitutional grounds). Testing for drugs may run upwards of $100 for each applicant or participant, according to a non-partisan legislative attorney at the state General Assembly.

“The bill is fiscally and morally irresponsible,” said Sabine Schoenbach, a policy analyst with the NC Justice Center’s Workers’ Rights Project and co-author of the report. “Universal drug testing is an unfunded mandate that could cost the state as much as $2.3 million for the testing alone.”

Suspicionless drug testing of public assistance applicants and recipients likely violates the Constitution’s Fourth Amendment against unreasonable search and seizure, the report said.  Other states’ statutes that required testing without reasonable basis or suspicion have been deemed unconstitutional. When Michigan tried enacting a drug-testing program for welfare recipients in the early 2000s, a federal court struck it down as unconstitutional. In February 2013, the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals upheld a lower court’s ruling to stop enforcement of Florida’s law requiring all applicants for TANF benefits to be tested.

Blanket testing has also been found to be an ineffective way to identify and address substance abuse, as it shifts the focus away from screening and services by replacing existing evaluation and treatment provisions with drug-testing mandates. North Carolina’s Work First program already screens for possible substance abuse, and if the applicant is found to be at risk, qualified professionals conduct a comprehensive assessment – a practice that has been shown to be a more effective model than universal testing.

“Suspicionless drug testing of public assistance recipients has been challenged on constitutional grounds around the country,” Schoenbach said. “Only a small fraction of public assistance recipients suffer from substance abuse and addiction. Funds would be better spent on treatment programs for these few individuals and on workforce development programs that can help public assistance recipients transition to self-sufficiency.”

Read the full report by clicking here.


  1. Doug

    April 22, 2013 at 2:49 pm

    Well, don’t come to the well if you don’t want to follow the rules. That is what happens when you come to the government for assistance, you then become beholden to the government. Modern day welfare is now no more than a leftist scheme to keep people in slavery to the government.

  2. Gene Bridges

    April 22, 2013 at 4:27 pm

    Well, don’t come to the well if you don’t want to follow the rules.

    Nice try, but that’s irrelevant. You shouldn’t have to sacrifice your 4th Amendment rights or your NC Constitution, Article 1:Sec.20 rights when you apply for assistance. Of course, you could try secession, but then that’s against NC Constitution Article 1, Sec. 5. Lawmakers don’t have carte blanche to make whatever rules they want. We live under two constitutions, one federal, one state, and according to the former, blanket testing of persons is unconstitutional, and under the latter, we can’t even do suspicionless testing of teachers in this state because that runs contrary to the state constitution. Bone up on elementary constitutional law before making such obviously erroneous statements.

    You also keep using the term “leftist.” That’s cute, especially when you like to use adjectives in lieu of arguments, Doug. McCarthy would be proud.

  3. Gene Bridges

    April 22, 2013 at 6:31 pm

    By the way, it’s rather amusing to me, Doug, to watch you write in favor of blanket testing for Work First participants for a number of reasons. (1) Some libertarians are actually not opposed to these programs. Such programs aren’t the sole purview of the political left. Try to keep up with your own end of the ideological spectrum. Apropos (2) Libertarians tend to view drug use as something the Government about which Government should not get very involved. Testing people for drugs is something you should be *against* not for, if you were consistent with Libertarian values, and, if you say that’s a legitimate point of dispute, then that drives you into (3) Constitutionalism, which, of course, means you would have to concede means it is unconstitutional, which, apparently, you do not believe. Ergo, thanks for waving your schwastika today for us. It proves that, when the chips are down, you’re an authoritarian Righty, which means you’re just as much a big Government statist as all those “leftists” about which you twitter all the time. You just carve out ad hoc distinctions in your statism when it suits you. Congratulations.

  4. david esmay

    April 22, 2013 at 9:25 pm

    Keep up the righty conservative fascist platitudes Doug. Scratch a Libertarian and oft times you’ll find an Authoritarian.

  5. Frances Jenkins

    April 23, 2013 at 12:05 am

    Boys, Boys, Boys,
    People who work for a living think folks who receive assistance should be drug tested. Those people love Jesus just as much as Gene does or more.

  6. Doug

    April 23, 2013 at 10:17 am

    If you read my post carefully I am not expressing a view favoring the program or not. However, I am expressing that you have to do what your master tells you to do if you want to come for the benefits. I actually think we need to get rid of more benefits when you get right down to it. The government was not formed to be a giant teat.

  7. Sharon

    April 23, 2013 at 10:00 pm

    Where is the outrage and cries of random, suspiciousless drug testing for employment purposes? If workers (I.e. tax payers) have to be subjected to random drug testing why not those who are applying for government assistance be held to similar standards? My husband owns a corner market, and I routinely see people using food stamps to purchase items for their “munchies” while reeking of marijuana. Why should my tax money purchase their food when they can afford illegal drugs? And if their fourth amendment rights are being trampled, why aren’t mine protected? Who stands up and says work place drug testing is a violation of fourth amendment rights? Drug testing at the time of application for assistance is the same as drug testing during the application process for employment.

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