Welfare drug testing ruled unconstitutional


A federal judge on Tuesday struck down a law requiring Florida cash welfare recipients first pass a drug test. The law, enacted in 2011, had been temporarily blocked by a federal judge under grounds that it might constitute an illegal search and seizure.

Of course, the governor isn’t happy:

“Any illegal drug use in a family is harmful and even abusive to a child,” Scott said. “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. We will continue to fight for Florida children who deserve to live in drug-free homes by appealing this judge’s decision to the U.S. Court of Appeals.”

But of course, the point is that the law is not directed at those who use illegal drugs. It assumes an entire class of people to be acting illegally unless they prove otherwise. And that is offensive to the Constitution.

This simple fact seems to elude so many seemingly intelligent individuals. I have had a lot of friends who support drug testing for welfare recipients, and their argument always goes something like the governor’s… “taxpayers shouldn’t be paying for their drug use…. if they’re going to break the law, they should be tested.”

There are a lot of arguments against testing – it’s not cost-effective, it’s demeaning, it doesn’t really help those who need help, but ultimately, the thing that makes it unacceptable to the Constitution is the simple fact that mandatory suspicionless drug testing by the government is not a reasonable search, which violates the Fourth Amendment.

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32 Responses to Welfare drug testing ruled unconstitutional

  1. Hope says:

    Good news!

    • Bill M says:

      This is not good news it is tragic news. Drug addicts will not support their families with welfare payments. They will fuel their addictions!

      • Pete says:

        Well then, Bill, you won’t mind if we look through your house and all your things. After all, drug addicts won’t support their families. They’ll fuel their addictions.

        Please give us your address so we can come and search.


        Don’t worry – if it turns out you’re not a drug addict, we won’t find anything.

      • DdC says:

        and take your kids

      • War Vet says:

        I know quite a few people who buy drugs with money they earn from their jobs (and they are not on welfare). Because one needs money to buy drugs and welfare is for those who lack cash, we have no real proof that welfare recipients/hopefuls use drugs. Americans would be better off if our Government outlawed our employers from giving us cash or goods (because of bartering) for working at our jobs. I work at a job so I can ‘also’ afford my kind bud and lighters . . . because hard drugs usually don’t stay in the system for a long time, we cannot trust drug testing. The root cause of illegal drug use is employment since employments allows drug users the kind of funds needed to buy and thus use drugs. The only way a democratic free market like America will escape illegal drug use by its citizens is to simply destroy the rights of the workers to obtain any currency or consumer goods (food, clothing etc) that can be traded for drugs.

        And one more thing in regards to drug testing though not for welfare: one day I put pepper in the noses of a marijuana user, a cocaine user, a heroin user and a meth user and they sneezed. If we put pepper up the noses of every American and said American sneezes—that is a tell-tell sign of drug use (you cannot argue with facts: I witnessed drug users sneeze after blowing pepper in their noses . . . it goes without saying as Kurt Vonnegut Jr. would say).

  2. IronBalut says:

    Ok, if it is unconstitutional to require drug testing to receive government benefits, then why is it not unconstitutional to require drug testing to get a job?

    • Robert says:

      Lets take your idea drug testing welfare. Lets see if we have a failed test, no food for the family.

      Now we have to take the children away. I am sure that that child at a young age going to understand the officer saying its for your own good.

      Foster care, that will break the cycle of welfare. We all know the fine results we get from foster parents. Its no different than school, new parents every year or so. The opportunities for that child having a new foster, new rules, new punishments, new classmates.

      Besides with lost growth in foster care, since they crack wars are over, lobbyist have to protect they industry’s growth. We are still in a recession, this creates new jobs.

      We can’t live under that out dated constitution, its a dangerous world since 9/11. Besides now the NSA collects all Americans citizens meta data records. Besides politicians would never try to get this data when they are in charge. Watergate solved all corruption. The court says its makes us safer.

      Why did my spouse come home with a memo from her employer, informing them any one making less than $81,000.00 would be subject to random drug test. And you were exempt when you were upper management making more than 81k. Interesting, why different standards for low income employees. Is that what they teach in ivory league colleges or wall street?

      Oh when my fast food order gets mess up, I so puzzled then tested their IQ by urine.

      Oh let see, if they use hard drugs like coke and meth, in 1 to 3 days to clear body(get out of jail free). Those low down pot heads, get caught by IQ by urine, it takes 6 weeks to clear THC. Those that do legal drugs like drinking and beating up their love ones drunk. Better than those munchies & pleasant mode that THC causes, and the lost physical activity of beating up someone.

      It make perfect sense IronBalut

    • darkcycle says:

      Because it is Government that is the subject of the Constitution. The Constitution is supposed to constrain the Government’s powers (ostensibly), it doesn’t say a damn thing about what your employer does.

      • sparkz says:

        wrong, because the government in the role of an employer does drug testing.

        teachers, police,fire, safety, corrections are all drug tested by a government agency.

        Basically if you get paid by social services to work there they can drug test you but if you get paid by social services for assistance they cant…..

        • Pete says:

          No, Darkcycle is correct. The Constitution is a limited grant of powers to the government, and the Fourth Amendment is a specific restriction on government.

          Private employers are not subject to the restrictions in the Fourth Amendment. Laws, however, could be passed to prevent or allow employers to use drug testing.

          The Supreme Court has, however, in its wisdom or folly, ruled that searches are reasonable for government when there are “compelling” needs by the government to do the search, such as safety-related employment, or employment working with children, etc. or even students participating in extra-curricular activities.

          Obviously, none of that would apply in the case of welfare recipients,

        • Duncan20903 says:


          I see that while I was writing this pot that Pete was busy posting much the same. I’m mainly going to leave it up because the link takes you to a comprehensive explanation of this policy.

          Government employees who are not in safety sensitive positions don’t get drug tested because they work for the government and the 4th Amendment protects them.

          Personnel in safety sensitive positions are excepted because the Courts found that the Government had compelling interest in preserving life and limb.

          Have you ever seen the FAA’s naughty list of substances for pilots?

          It took me about 3 1/2 minutes to Google that. The truth is out there!

        • Uncle Albert's Nephew says:

          When drug testing fever started about 1980 or so I actually thought that the same logic behind the protection of employees against polygraphs would extend to drug testing as well. Silly me.

      • Freeman says:

        The Constitution is supposed to constrain the Government’s powers (ostensibly), it doesn’t say a damn thing about what your employer does.

        This is true, DC. However, the federal government routinely subverts this particular constraint by requiring any and all corporations granted government contracts (and often all of their sub-contractors) to have documented drug-testing programs. The feds can’t do it themselves but they can outsource the work and make that company do it. Same result. IMHO, that practice should be considered unconstitutional too.

        I’ve been amazingly fortunate in having spent the last 35 years in a high-tech industry rife with government contracts and have not once been required to submit to a drug test. My current employer, being well aware that drug-test results are not a reliable indicator of job performance, is of the wise opinion that he can’t make as much money if he won’t hire a top performer simply because he might choose to enjoy an occasional “vice”.

        It’s not really in most business’ best interests to drug-test employees. The federal government is openly driving the bulk of the practice, contrary to the spirit of Constitutional constraints. I figure since the government is so willing to flagrantly disregard legal constraints on what it is allowed to do, why shouldn’t I do the same?

        • Windy says:

          Insurance companies are just as guilty as the government in driving employee drug testing. Anyone with a CDL is subject to twice the number of random drug tests, their names go into the hat twice (while it is just once for every other employee, including the ones who operate heavy equipment like road graders, rollers, scrapers, bulldozers, etc.) and CDL drivers will not just lose their license to drive their private vehicle anywhere, but they also lose their source of income because they can no longer drive to earn income.

  3. strayan says:

    Look Pete, everyone knows that you motivate the rich by paying them more and motivate the poor by paying them less.

    Because I’m rich I don’t work unless I receive massive tax breaks.

  4. Hope says:

    Your employer is supposed to be a private entity. His search and seizure isn’t considered the same as search and seizure done by the government.

    Although, of course, we know the employer’s search is encouraged, aided, and abetted by the government.

  5. darkcycle says:

    The level of Gov. Scott’s corrupt depravity is staggering. Not only is he heavily vested in the drug testing industry, he’s SUPPOSED to be a republican. ““Any illegal drug use in a family is harmful and even abusive to a child,” Scott said. “We should have a zero tolerance policy for illegal drug use in families –…” sounds pretty much like big intrusive Government to me. That’s the kind of Government overreach that would have the John Birch Society burning him in effigy (if they were still around).

  6. sparkz says:

    the author seems to have it wrong.

    It’s not mandatory to get drug tested, it’s optional.

    If you want to work at social services, you must consent to a drug test but the actual consent is optional. There aren’t even negative consequences for failing to consent, its simply beneficial for you to consent.

    you could argue that “its not really a choice for people to get welfare”.

    Well if you live in a moderatly rural area you might say it’s not really optional for you have a license. Well no it is, i’ll agree its a huge inconvience for you not too. Its a loss of a huge benefit for people not to get welfare if there eligable but the government puts tons of other requirements on it as well.

    For example they require you to fill out paperwork. They require single mothers with child support owing fathers to begin legal proceedings to force collection. So here they are forcing you to sue, forcing you to disclose your confidential tax and income information.

    There is nothing wrong with it BECAUSE YOU DONT HAVE TO.

    its just in your best interest to.
    If you do drugs and want a job, you have to find one that doesn’t drug test or not get a job.

    • Yes, its optional for you to breathe too. Not required, but recommended. Yep – there is always choices.

      If there is consequences of a negative nature, don’t waste your breath on me. That’s not what I call choice. Charity with strings is no longer charity somehow. Might as well bring back the debtors prisons and workhouses too. Drug free, of course. Lots of choices. People that puff out their chest and say “well I have to take a drug test to get employment” and somehow equate that to drug testing welfare just smacks of misery loving company. Giving up your freedom to eat and feed your family is not a choice to me. More like slaves to the upper classes. People don’t have to agree to empty their pockets on a stop and frisk in NY either. They have a choice too. Truthfully you just confused the hell out of me.

      • allan says:

        got me thinkin’ about the old joke where the body parts get in an argument over which is most important…

        totally unrelated but that are where I went.

    • DdC says:

      Now the ticks are clinging to the last veins bartering for rehab as the better choice. Still clinging to one toke equals abuse. Or relating it to alcohol inebriation or chemical cigarettes. Falsehoods referencing falsehoods. Caught exposed and they horde on to tax dollars lying to us. Work Free Drug Places are such a joke. Cannabis can not be tested for inebriation from urine. Its a political tool to remove whistle blowers with 40,000 false tests from one technician. Cannabis retains in fat cells, red flag. Only non toxins retain in fat cells. Drugs are flushed out of the body within 48 hours. Cannabis can stay for weeks. Nothing to do with inebriation. But it will weed out the unwanted without that nasty constitution getting in the way. Great for eliminating competition for the advancement. Such a despicable act and people actually defend it in public.

      It’s not mandatory to get drug tested, it’s optional.

      That’s the Oxymoron of the week…

      Drug mishandling may have tainted 40,000 cases

      Two of the loudest anti-marijuana spokespeople are two elder drug warriors, Peter Bensinger (DEA chief, 1976—1981) and Robert DuPont (White House drug chief, 1973—1977), who run a corporate drug-testing business.

      Former DEA administrator Peter Bensinger – who owns a drug testing company – lobbies for a federal crackdown on legal marijuana
      Barthwell and Bensinger dwr

      “Hath my master sent me to thy master and to thee to speak these words? hath he not sent me to the men that sit upon the wall, that they may eat their own dung, and drink their own piss with you?”
      ~ Isaiah 36:12

      Kinkykerli’s back and wants to taste more of your piss…

      Steal This Urine Test

      Millions of Americans are already being subjected to a meaningless and degrading urine test for drug use, and millions more are about to join their ranks. Drug testing is now common practice in sports, the military, prisons, one third of the Fortune 500 corporations,and many occupations related to “national security” and “public safety”. Politicians and pressure groups are calling for mandatory testing of almost the entire population. Attorney General Edwin Meese has urged employers to keep track of workers not only on the shop floor but in their off-job hours as well.

      A substantive challenge to urine testing and the greatest drug hysteria in American history. Claiming the tests are unconstitutional, Hoffman compares them to the “Red Menace”: “They have little to do with drug abuse, and a lot to do with controlling workers and weeding out undesireables”.

      ‘Steal This Urine Test’ is an activist handbook for beating drug tests, as well as a common-sense antidote to much of the misinformation passing as truth about drugs. For workers, students, athletes, and parents, this book champions the Bill of Rights, and raises a challenge to Big Government intrusion.

      Reefer Madness by Abbie Hoffman

      “If I instituted drug testing at Cypress,
      I would get a brick through my windshield, and I would deserve it.”
      –T.J. Rogers, President, Cypress Semiconductor

      One In Five High Schools Piss Taste Students

      Finally – a drug free workforce!
      DWR: Pete Guither September 30, 2008

    • darkcycle says:

      Sparks. First, if you have a job which is a “sensitive” or safety critical job, the Supreme Court ruled that the fourth amendment doesn’t apply (IIRC). That was a bad decision, if you ask me. Second, you had a choice whether or not to apply for that job. It wasn’t the only one out there, and you had that offer, presumably you could find other options had you elected not to take the test. It is not a choice to eat. And you can’t just choose another welfare program that doesn’t drug test.
      I wonder if you can remember who it is welfare is designed to help. The SNAP (food stamp program) is for families with children. Medicaid is for senior citizens and the medically disabled.
      All constitutional arguments aside….what is to be gained by denying children food money (since that’s all the recipients of SNAP money can legally spend it on) and kicking seniors out of their nursing homes? Really, you’re not just punishing the drug user, you’re punishing their families.
      Nothing suggests that people on welfare use drugs at a higher rate than the ordinary population, and the amount of money spent on administering this program will dwarf any money “saved” by kicking an occasional pothead off welfare. So the “savings” argument dissolves immediately. The only argument that you have left is the sour grapes argument: I had to do it to get MY job, why shouldn’t THEY be tested.

  7. DdC says:

    Happy New Year!
    Nappy Yew Hear?
    Yappy Hew Near?

    President Ronald Reagan, at the urging of then Vice President George Bush, appointed Carlton Turner as the White House Drug (czar) Advisor in 1981. Soon after Drugczar Carlton Turner left office, Nancy Reagan recommended that no corporation be permitted to do business with the Federal government without having a urine purity policy in place to show their loyalty. Carlton Turner became a rich man in what has now become a huge growth industry: urine-testing.

    “Marijuana leads to homosexuality … and therefore to AIDS.”
    ~ Carlton Turner – Former Drug Czar (Reagan)

    Russ Belville ‏@RadicalRuss
    Here’s Where You Can Get Arrested For DUI Weeks After Smoking Marijuana …

    On Drugs and Democracy
    Legalizing narcotics would strengthen democracy at home and abroad.

    • DdC says:

      You leave your fingerprints.
      They steal your piss by force.
      Just another 3rd degree cop toy for getting confessions.
      21st century you don’t even have to speak.

      They’ve outlawed the number one vegetable on the planet.
      Timothy Leary

      Leary challenged the act on the ground that the act required self-incrimination, which violated the Fifth Amendment. The unanimous opinion of the court was penned by Justice John Marshall Harlan II and declared the Marihuana Tax Act unconstitutional.
      Leary v. United States,

      Then Nixon disregarded the SCotUS decision, changed the title to Controlled Substance Act and lumped in GanjaRx and Hemp. GanJustice. NO one has the right to take your bodily fluids. No one. Only perverted profiteers hurling hobgoblins at companies to buy their coercion insurance, it’s racketeering. Mafia 101.

  8. Scott says:

    “It assumes an entire class of people to be acting illegally unless they prove otherwise. And that is offensive to the Constitution.”

    “It” is merely one regulation shot down among an ocean of regulations in this nation that all provide that same offense and the law abuse that too often goes with (including the highly destructive war on some drugs).

    When I hear anyone promoting regulations for anything (including cannabis use), I cringe in patriotic and principled disgust.

    We have over two centuries of time-honored wrongness and all of the law abuse that goes with. Regulations are never the answer, because some group of dominant beings (with all of their conflicts-of-interest against the public good) must define regular for us all (such definition instead always ultimately just defining the “upper class” throughout history and around the world today).

    We live in a “Resourcocracy” (not a meritocracy, democracy, etc.) Resources determine policy, not morality nor equality (what the “red” and “blue” political teams respectively pretend to be promoting to actually just secure their ample resources).

    Having one regulation shot down in a “sea” of outrageous and disastrous regulations is meaningless, because the demonstrably proven baseless ‘more regulations for civility’ mentality grossly thrives against our self-evidently and unalienable individual right to liberty that is supposed to be legally protected by the “offended” ninth amendment (that should in fact defeat all regulations by law — risk is an education and public awareness issue, never a legal one).

    Had this national obligation been met, there never would have been the regulations forming the war on some drugs (established by a Supreme Court obviously illegally redefining the Commerce Clause from “To regulate Commerce” to ‘to regulate any activity having a substantial effect on commerce’).

    Had this national obligation been met, the public would be lawfully protected from bad (even horrible) laws entrenched by selfish people with more resources (or the ability to wield their resources better).

    Had this national obligation been met, discrimination based upon gender, race, sexual preference, recreational drug use, etc. would never be lawful.

    Had this national obligation been met, law would only be applied against people objectively proven to directly infringe upon another person’s rights (i.e. actually harming someone), critically noting objectivity is required for fairness, and fairness is part of the definition of justice.

  9. darkcycle says:

    WOW. Happy new Year! This blog is really starting out the new year true to it’s name! There are some epic Rants on the page! We should post while drinking more often!
    May 2014 be happy and prosperous for all. With all the bits of wall falling down around us, I’m glad we made it through the whole year without serious injury!

  10. claygooding says:

    The government cannot test me for drugs because I can’t earn enough money to feed my family but they can test me for employment to deny me the opportunity and ability to earn the money myself…sounds like a standard government program to me.

  11. Jean Valjean says:

    I think it’s pretty safe to say that by far the greatest number of welfare recipients who demonstrate problematic drug use leading to financial unmanageability are dependent on alcohol. Yet there appears to be no clamor from prohibitionists like governor Rick Scott to test them for alcohol. Once again we see a culture of greed and self-righteousness legislating to make life as inconvenient as possible for people they dislike. It’s been mentioned before, but it’s worth noting that Gov Scott has a large financial interest in the continuation of drug testing:

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