Court Upholds Decision to Halt Drug Testing Among Welfare Applicants
The opinion is a great victory for those who believe in civil liberties. This law is not unlike other proposed laws around the country that have a latent but definite tendency to marginalize vulnerable individuals and minorities (e.g., proposed legislation to regulate voter eligibility).
We, as a community of civilized individuals, should offer help to those that have hit rock bottom. For many, it is the only help available.
This law should be seen for what it is - a straw man. The entire law is premised on the exaggerated assumption that a significant number of welfare recipients are drug users. Of course, it is easier to come up with an unnecessary legislative solution when one exaggerates a problem or creates a problem that does not exist. Absent evidence, however, exaggerations like this are based on bias, prejudice and speculation. Simply because a person is a welfare recipient does not mean that he/she is a drug user.
Evidence has shown that the majority of families applying for state financial aid are not habitual drug users. In fact, since the bill was passed in May 2011, only 2% of applicants tested positive for drug use. According to the 2010 National Survey on Drug Use and Health, close to 9% of the general population are habitual users of illegal drugs. If anything, evidence is showing that welfare recipients are much less likely to use illegal drugs than the rest of us.
Consider also the Plaintiff in this case-a U.S. Navy veteran, college student and the sole caretaker of a young child and his disabled grandmother. He questioned the necessity of a warrantless drug test that would have enabled him to receive up to $241 a month in state aid. Why should this man be subjected to such an embarrassment and nuisance?
He refused, as he should have. And with the support of the American Civil Liberties Union, he took the State of Florida to court. The Court of Appeals found that he was right:
"The only known and shared characteristic of the individuals who would be subjected to Florida's mandatory drug testing program is that they are financially needy families with children… There is nothing inherent to the condition of being impoverished that supports the conclusion that there is a "concrete danger" that impoverished individuals are prone to drug use."
Kudos to the court for doing the right thing.