published Friday, October 28th, 2011

Florida's sensible welfare drug-screening law

Until a few days ago, the state of Florida had a successful program to prevent drug abusers from obtaining welfare benefits.

A Florida law required applicants for the cash assistance to undergo drug testing.

That makes sense for two obvious reasons. First, drug abusers who receive government cash are liable to use those taxpayer dollars to purchase more drugs. Second, removing drug abusers from the pool of those who are eligible for welfare frees up more of the limited dollars for those who are genuinely in need and who will use the money for legitimate purposes.

The Florida law got excellent results. Dozens of welfare applicants who failed the drug screening were blocked from receiving welfare benefits. And 1,600 more filled out paperwork seeking welfare benefits but were denied benefits when they refused to take the drug test. That doesn't prove that every single one of those applicants was a drug user. But if they halted the application process once they realized they would have to pass a drug test, that strongly suggests that many of them have used illegal drugs.

Unfortunately, a federal judge recently blocked the drug-screening law. Plaintiffs in a lawsuit seeking to overturn the law claimed that it violated the civil rights of welfare applicants.

Now, the drug tests have been halted, and even those welfare applicants who were actually proved to have used illegal drugs are being invited to apply again to receive government cash.

There is a natural and wholesome inclination to help those who are truly in need. But potentially propping up someone's drug habit with welfare benefits does neither that person nor the taxpayers nor our society as a whole any good.

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