Drug testing welfare recipients as a condition of eligibility is a policy that is scientifically, fiscally, and constitutionally unsound.
The 1996 Welfare Reform Act authorized - but did not require - states to impose mandatory drug testing as a prerequisite to receiving state welfare assistance.
Although no states currently subject welfare recipients to random drug testing as a condition of eligibility, some are considering doing so.
Random drug testing of welfare recipients is scientifically and medically unsound:
Random drug testing of welfare recipients is fiscally irresponsible:
Random drug testing of welfare recipients is likely unconstitutional under both the U.S. Constitution and some state constitutions:
Michigan is the only state to attempt to impose drug testing of welfare recipients – a policy that was struck down as unconstitutional in 2003. The ACLU challenged the mandatory drug testing program as unconstitutional, arguing that drug testing of welfare recipients violates the Fourth Amendment’s protection against unreasonable searches. The case, Marchwinski v. Howard, concluded when the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit upheld a lower court’s decision striking down the policy as unconstitutional.
At the time Michigan’s drug testing scheme was struck down, the 49 other states had rejected such a program for a variety of fiscal and practical reasons: at least 21 states concluded that such a program “may be unlawful”; 17 states cited cost concerns; 11 states had not considered drug testing at all; and 11 gave a variety of practical/operational reasons.
In halting the implementation of Michigan’s drug testing law, U.S. District Court Judge Victoria Roberts ruled that the state's rationale for testing welfare recipients “could be used for testing the parents of all children who received Medicaid, State Emergency Relief, educational grants or loans, public education or any other benefit from that State.” Indeed, any of the justifications put forth to subject welfare recipients to random drug testing would also by logical extension apply to the entirety of our population that receives some public benefit and/or that is a parent. It is clear that our constitution – and common sense – would object to the random drug testing of this large group of people, making the drug testing of an equally absurd category of people – welfare recipients – unconstitutional as well.
Some states’ constitutions actually offer greater privacy protection to individuals than does the U.S. Constitution. It is very possible that random drug testing schemes for welfare recipients will run afoul of these state-specific protections as well.
 Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Act (1996). Internet. Available: http://www.usinfo.state.gov/usa/infousa/laws/majorlaw/h3734_en.htm.
 National Institutes of Health Press Release, NIAAA Researchers Estimate Alcohol and Drug Use, Abuse, and Dependence Among Welfare Recipients, (1996). Internet. Available: http://www.nih.gov/news/pr/oct96/niaaa-23.htm
 Brief of Plaintiffs-Appellees, Marchwinski v. Howard, 309 F.3d 330 (6th Cir. 2002) (No. 00-2115), rev’d en banc, 2003 WL 1870916 (Apr. 7, 2003).
 Substance Abuse and Mental Health Servs. Admin., 2006 National Survey on Drug Use and Health (available at http://www.drugabusestatistics.samhsa.gov/nsduh/2k6nsduh/2k6Results.cfm#Fig2-1).
 Substance Abuse and Mental Health Servs. Admin., Worker Drug Use and Workplace Policies and Programs: Results from the 1994 and 1997 National Household Survey on Drug Abuse 1 (1999).
 Ctr. for Addiction and Mental Health, Position Statement on Mandatory Drug Testing and Treatment of Welfare Recipients (2000) (available at http://www.camh.net/Public_policy/Public_policy_papers/man_drug_test_pos00.pdf.pdf).
 Brief of Amici Am. Pub. Health Ass’n et al., Marchwinski v. Howard, 309 F.3d 330 (6th Cir. 2002) (No. 00-2115), rev’d en banc, 2003 WL 1870916 (Apr. 7, 2003) (available at /files/FilesPDFs/marchwinskiamicusbrief1_22_01.pdf).
 U.S. Dep’t of Educ., Robert L. DuPont, Teresa G. Campbell and Jacqueline J. Mazza, Report of a Preliminary Study: Elements of a Successful School-Based Student Drug Testing Program 8 (2002).
 R. Brinkley Smithers Inst., Cornell Univ., Workplace Substance Abuse Testing, Drug Testing: Cost and Effect (Jan. 1992).
 Oklahoma Dept. of Human Servs, “TANF: Focus on Substance Abuse” (March 5, 1998)
 Ctr. for Addiction and Mental Health, Forcing Welfare Recipients into Drug Testing and Treatment, (2001) (available at http://www.camh.net/journal/journalv4no2/forcing_welfare_drugtests.html).
 "Drugs of Abuse Reference Guide," LabCorp Inc, Internet. Available: http://www.labcorpsolutions.com/images/Drugs_of_Abuse_Reference_Guide_Flyer_3166.pdf
 Nancy Young and Sidney Gardner, Implementing Welfare Reform: Solutions to the Substance Abuse Problem (1997).
 New York Times, Opposition to Plan to Test Welfare Applicants For Drugs (1999).
 The Lindesmith Ctr., Drug Testing Welfare Applicants: A Nationwide Survey of Policies, Practices, and Rationales (Nov. 1999).
 Marchwinski v. Howard, 113 F. Supp. 2d 1134 (E.D. Mich. 2000), aff’d, 60 F. App’x 601 (6th Cir. 2003)
 The Lindesmith Ctr., Drug Testing Welfare Applicants: A Nationwide Survey of Policies, Practices, and Rationales (Nov. 1999)
 Marchwinski v. Howard, 113 F. Supp. 2d 1134, 1142 (E.D. Mich. 2000), aff’d, 2003 WL 1870916 (6th Cir. Apr. 7, 2003).