Drug tests for welfare recipients now the lawby Dara Kam | May 31st, 2011
Welfare recipients, mostly women with children, will now have to be drug-free to receive cash benefits under a bill signed into law by Gov. Rick Scott today.
Under the new law, applicants for the benefits will have to pay for the drug tests but will get reimbursed if they are drug-free. If they’re not, their children will still be able to receive benefits through another family member or someone else designated by their parent.
More than 21,000 Floridians now receiving benefits as heads of households will now have to pay for and undergo the screening.
Scott and state lawmakers contend Florida needs the new law to stop welfare recipients from using the money to buy drugs. Opponents of the measure cite studies have shown that there’s no more widespread drug abuse among welfare recipients than the general public.
“While there are certainly legitimate needs for public assistance, it is unfair for Florida taxpayers to subsidize drug addiction,” Scott said in a press release. “This new law will encourage personal accountability and will help to prevent the misuse of tax dollars.”
The ACLU of Florida blasted the new law.
“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, the civil rights organization’s executive director.
A federal court in 2003 struck down a similar law, finding that it violated Fourth Amendment rights to be free from unreasonable searches.
Scott is also requiring state workers to undergo random drug tests, prompting threats of lawsuits. The ACLU is making an announcement regarding that policy tomorrow morning, indicating a lawsuit is likely.
Perhaps not coincidentally, Scott today also signed into law a bill banning certain bath salts that have resulted in a rash of overdoses in Florida and other states.
Attorney General Pam Bondi in January issued an emergency order criminalizing the sale of “bath salts” made up of the dangerous synthetic drug Methylenedioxypyrovalerone, or MDPV. The drug cocktail apparently gives users super-human strength.
Florida poison control centers have reported 61 calls of “bath salts” abuse, the second-highest volume of calls in the nation, according to Scott’s office.