Newsbrief: Federal Court Upholds Drug Tests for Welfare Recipients 10/25/02

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The US 6th Circuit Court of Appeals in Cincinnati upheld the state of Michigan's use of mandatory drug testing of welfare recipients in an opinion issued October 18. Michigan welfare officials had attempted to implement welfare drug testing three years ago, but after the Michigan ACLU challenged the plan in court, US District Judge Victoria Roberts issued a temporary injunction blocking it in November 1999.

A three-judge appeals court panel -- all appointed by former President George Bush -- ruled that random drug testing of welfare recipients is a justifiable method of protecting children, the public, and tax dollars from abuse. It further held that the state can deny benefits to anyone who tests positive for illegal drugs.

Michigan politicians and bureaucrats were happy, the Detroit Free Press reported. Gov. John Engler (R-MI) hailed the ruling, saying "testing and treatment for welfare recipients for drug use is consistent with our goal of helping them reach true self-sufficiency." And both candidates to replace Engler, Democratic Attorney General Jennifer Granholm and Republican Lt. Gov. Dick Posthumus said they would implement the program if elected. Granholm had earlier called the program "degrading and humiliating," but has had a change of heart in the heat of the campaign.

The Michigan ACLU was not so pleased. "Our concern is that this can really open up the door to uncontrolled government surveillance in every aspect of our lives," said the group's Mary Moss. "What about students who take out student loans or taxpayers who take deductions?" Moss said the group would appeal. "We see the Fourth Amendment being whittled away," she said.

The court's opinion may be viewed online at:
http://pacer.ca6.uscourts.gov/cgi-bin/getopn.pl?OPINION=02a0367p.06

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