COLUMBUS - Today, the American Civil Liberties Union of Ohio called on the Ohio General Assembly to abandon proposed legislation that would require drug testing for Ohioans as a condition for receiving public assistance. The provision was added to HB 487 on the morning of May 15, 2012, and is expected to pass the Senate the next day. The House will consider the legislation the following week. The ACLU is also asking Governor John Kasich to veto the legislation if it passes.

“Legislators are trying to sneak this controversial provision in the massive mid-biennium budget review with little public notice or debate,” said ACLU of Ohio Associate Director Gary Daniels. “Governor Kasich has gone on record with his skepticism about this kind of legislation. Now we are urging him to veto this proposal if it reaches his desk.”

“Other states have gone down this road with little success,” added Daniels. ”In Florida this kind of legislation was declared unconstitutional, but not before it became obvious it was an overly expensive, ineffective way to detect drug use.”

In 2011 Florida became the first state to pass and fully implement a bill mandating drug testing for people receiving public assistance. The law was in effect for four months before it was declared unconstitutional following an ACLU of Florida lawsuit. During the four months the law was in effect, only 2.6% of drug tests come back positive, and only 1% of applicants refused to complete the test.

Despite beliefs to the contrary, recipients of public assistance have never been shown to abuse drugs at a higher rate than the general population. In fact, recipients in Florida tested positive for drug use at a rate over three times lower than the general population.

Ohio’s proposal limits the program to three counties, and requires counties to “survey” each applicant to determine if there is “reasonable suspicion” to force them to take a drug test.

“Ohio legislators are under the impression that giving county officials the authority to pick and choose who gets tested makes this a better law,” said Daniels. “It doesn’t. Courts have held that drug tests are a search, and we should not allow a county employee to do the job of a court. Without proper checks and balances, it will encourage profiling on the basis of who ‘appears’ to have a drug problem. The fact is no amount of fine tuning can fix the fundamentally flawed logic behind this type of legislation.”