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Federal Judge Strikes Down Florida’s Welfare Drug Testing Law

Federal ruling declares mandatory drug testing unconstitutional.
Federal Judge Strikes Down Florida’s Welfare Drug Testing Law
Image from: Flickr

A Florida law requiring welfare applicants to go through drug testing was ruled unconstitutional by a federal judge. Republican Governor Rick Scott had backed the controversial measure, saying it protected taxpayers as well as families. Opponents, as well as the judge, considered the law an unconstitutional search and seizure, sincere there was no widespread drug usage among welfare applicants. Scott says he will appeal the decision.

On Tuesday, U.S. District Judge Mary Scriven struck down the Florida law mandating the compulsory drug testing of recipients of cash assistance. A truly horrible law:

"The law took effect in July 2011 and required parents to undergo and pay for urine tests for illegal drugs when they applied for Temporary Assistance for Needy Families, a federal-state program that helps poor people with children pay for food, shelter and necessities.

The testing fee of $25 to $45 was to be repaid by the state if the test came back negative, but applicants who tested positive would have been barred from receiving benefits for a year."

The law, which had been temporarily halted four months after it took effect after a lawsuit by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), was a huge failure during its short implementation: it was incredibly costly, and only a very small percentage of applicants were tested positive. This is, of course, to say nothing of how morally corrupt such a policy is, founded on the unsubstantiated claim that welfare recipients use drugs at higher rates than the general population. In Tuesday’s ruling, Judge Scriven permanently halted the law’s enforcement, though Florida Governor Rick Scott plans to appeal.

Policies like this one rely on classist, racist, and sexist narratives like the myth of the “welfare queen.”


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