The absurdity of drug testing public assistance applicants
“For all the trouble they caused this session, N.C. General Assembly leaders lacked a certain amount of inventiveness.
Almost every bill they introduced was already being considered, or was law, somewhere else.Case in point, during the final hours in Raleigh, the General Assembly passed a foolish bill requiring those applying for public assistance to pass a drug test before they can become eligible. This unconstitutional idea has been tried before in other states, and it makes no more sense here than it did when it was first implemented, and failed miserably, in Florida.
In 2010, Florida became the first state to pass and fully implement a bill mandating mandatory drug testing of all applicants for Temporary Assistance for Needy Families. The law mandated that all applicants pay for the cost of the drug test themselves, and that they be reimbursed if their test came back negative. The law was in effect for a mere four months before a federal court said it was unconstitutional.Nearly two years later, the New York Times released the most comprehensive data yet on how the law fared during the short period of time it was in effect. We already knew that the law was a failure, but what we didn’t know was just how much of a failure it was.
In the four months that Florida’s law was in place, the state drug- tested 4,086 TANF applicants. A mere 108 individuals tested positive, meaning, only 2.6 percent of applicants tested positive for illegal drugs. This is a rate more than three times lower than the 8.13 percent of all Floridians, age 12 and up, estimated by the federal government to use illegal drugs. This was in direct conflict with the argument made by Gov. Rick Scott, who said the law was necessary because welfare recipients used drugs at a higher rate than the general population.”
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