From written tests designed to flag drug users to singling out people with recent drug convictions, state lawmakers across the country are pursuing novel strategies to deny welfare benefits to drug users without running afoul of a recent federal court ruling.
In December, a federal judge in Florida struck down the state’s drug-test requirement. But almost half the states are considering drug-testing bills designed to withstand legal scrutiny. In Alabama, Indiana and Mississippi, such measures already have advanced by overwhelming majorities.
The movement is the latest iteration of a welfare drug-testing campaign that began gaining momentum about five years ago. Some lawmakers support the tests to help drug users on public assistance to get help. Others back them to make sure public dollars aren’t subsidizing drug habits, or say it’s simply about saving money.
“Some states have gotten smarter,” said Jason Williamson, a staff attorney with the American Civil Liberties Union, which has challenged drug-testing laws. “There are certainly ways that a state could formulate one of these programs that would make it very difficult to challenge.”
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