Is it Unconstitutional to Test Welfare Recipients for Drug Use?

People who apply for welfare in Florida have to take a drug test under a new law but they have to pay for the test out of their own pocket. Pass the test and they are eligible for state reimbursement for the test and benefits. If they fail they will be denied welfare for twelve months until they take another drug test.

Making drug testing mandatory when you apply for welfare benefits is becoming a popular idea across many of the states. Other states such as Kentucky, Oklahoma, Alabama, and Louisiana are considering following Florida’s footsteps. Currently at the federal level, Senator David Vitter, a Republican from Louisiana, has introduced the Drug Free Families Act of 2011. If it passes it would require that all fifty states to drug test welfare applicants when they apply for benefits.

The government is not just focusing on welfare applicants but also other federally funded programs. In July 2011, mandatory drug tests for participating in a state job training program were adopted by Indiana. In Ohio a state senator is planning to introduce a bill that would require a mandatory drug test before a person can get unemployment benefits.

Is it against someone’s constitutional right to make them take a drug test before they apply for welfare or unemployment benefits is really hard to say. In addition, is it saving the government money? When you figure in the cost of reimbursement for taking the drug test if it comes back negative, then the answer would seem to be no, they are not saving money.