Drug Policy

Drug Testing Recipients of Government Assistance

08.01.12

In spring 2012, the Ohio State Senate attempted to add a controversial provision to the state budget review bill that would have required some Ohioans to a take drug tests before receiving public assistance.

The provision was dropped after a firestorm of criticism. However, some lawmakers, intent on following Florida’s bad example, are already planning on reintroducing the plan as a piece of standalone legislation. Governor John Kasich, who previously indicated that he would not support this type of legislation, now says the he would back the plan.

Despite many assumptions to the contrary, government assistance recipients are no more likely to use drugs than the rest of the general population. In fact, 70 percent of all illicit drug users (not counting alcohol) ages 18-49 are employed full time.

The ACLU argues that mandatory drug testing violates the Fourth Amendment’s protection against unreasonable searches. Florida’s legislation has already been blocked by a federal judge, and an executive order from Florida Governor Rick Scott targeting state workers for mandatory drug tests has also been struck down.

In addition to their well-documented constitutional problems, these policies are also fiscally unsound. Florida also learned this lesson the hard way when they realized it cost the state more to reimburse those who tested negative than they would have paid out to those who tested positive.

An ACLU supporter recently wrote about his personal objections to this policy. Read about it here.