As the battle over drug testing welfare recipients wages on, Minnesota has become the latest state to begin adopting that practice. Starting today, Minnesota will require the state Department of Human Services to force recipients convicted of past felony drug offenses to identify themselves in order for them to be randomly tested. However, the definition of “random” will vary from county to county. The decision came on the heels of Kansas announcing they would adopt similar measures, although those won’t begin until July.
The decision to do so is highly controversial because it the nine other states who have adopted this method have yielded little success thus far. Missouri spent about $500,000 on its welfare drug testing program this year, but only recorded 20 positive results and nabbed 200 others who refused to comply. The roughly 220 people that the program caught is less than 1% of the 32,000 people in the state who have applied for assistance since the testing began.
Furthermore, the law operates under the commonly held belief that most welfare recipients use drugs, which some argue is outdated and untrue. “I don’t think anyone is under the illusion that this is about saving taxpayers money,” said Heidi Welsch, director of family support and assistance for Olmsted County. “This is punitive.”
Meanwhile, a Florida judge ruled today that the state’s drug testing of welfare users is unconstitutional. Gov. Rick Scott, who put the law into place by arguing that the drug testing was necessary to protect taxpayers and families, said he would appeal the ruling. “Any illegal drug use in a family is harmful and even abusive to a child,” he said in a statement. “We should have a zero-tolerance policy for illegal drug use in families — especially those families who struggle to make ends meet and need welfare assistance to provide for their children.”
However, Judge Mary S. Scriven justified her decision by stating that that “the court finds there is no set of circumstances under which the warrantless, suspicionless drug testing at issue in this case could be constitutionally applied.”