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Georgia Governor Puts Welfare Drug Testing on Hold

Submitted by Phillip Smith on (Issue #742)
Drug War Issues

Georgia's new welfare drug testing law was supposed to go into effect July 1, but that didn't happen. According to a spokesman for Gov. Nathan Deal (R), the governor still supports the law, but will hold off on implementation until a legal challenge against a similar bill next door in Florida is resolved.

The Florida law took effect last July, but was blocked by a federal judge in October. That case is expected to go before the 11th US Circuit Court of Appeals.

Civil rights and civil liberties groups in Georgia said when the law was passed they would challenge it as soon as it is implemented. But they may not have to if the court, which has jurisdiction in Alabama, Florida, and Georgia, strikes down the Florida law.

The federal courts have generally taken a dim view of random, suspicionless drug testing. They consider drug testing a search under the meaning of the Fourth Amendment and have carved out only limited exceptions to the general prohibition against warrantless drug testing. Those exceptions include public safety-sensitive positions (airline pilots, truck drivers), law enforcement personnel engaged in anti-drug work, and high school students involved in athletics or extracurricular activities.

"The governor feels confident that the law in Florida, and therefore in Georgia, will be upheld," spokesman Brian Robinson told the Associated Press. "We plan to move forward on this as soon as we can, but we're willing to wait a little bit longer on the federal courts. There's just no need in us hopping in."

Under the Georgia law, the state Department of Human Services is mandated to create a drug testing program for welfare applicants at their own expense. Those who pass the test would be reimbursed, but those who don't would not only not be reimbursed, they would be ineligible to receive benefits for one month. A second positive test would result in a three-month ban, while a third positive test would result in one year of ineligibility.

Any applicant who fails a drug test must first pass another drug test before benefits would be reinstated. The department would have to provide people who fail the drug test with a list of drug treatment providers, but the state would not pay for drug treatment for them.

Sen. Vincent Fort (D-Atlanta) told the AP Deal should have voiced his concerns about the law when it was being debated.

"During the debate, we talked about the viability of the law based on the Florida case," said Fort, who opposed the measure and was among the parties vowing legal action against the law. "It would've been appropriate for him at that time to have injected that point, but he's waiting until after he signed it, until it's about to be implemented. He chose not to say anything about it."

Ford said that if the law is upheld, it would set a dangerous precedent.

"The question is, if you're poor and need assistance, do you forfeit your constitutional rights or not?" he said. "I think that's dangerous. If it's poor people today, it could be other people tomorrow."

Permission to Reprint: This content is licensed under a modified Creative Commons Attribution license. Content of a purely educational nature in Drug War Chronicle appear courtesy of DRCNet Foundation, unless otherwise noted.


kickback (not verified)

Gov. Deal is actually a pretty good fellow . He seems to understand the meaning of  " expenses " better than repubs. in Congress . His last home of course . He has also signed off on drug courts for Ga .  Once we have legal Cannabis here in Georgia , then you will know that Cannabis Prohibition is dead .  

Thu, 07/05/2012 - 11:32pm Permalink
Paul Pot (not verified)


Are they going to test for alcohol too that destroys lives and wastes money or is it OK because its legal. That the first prejudice. 
Drug testing is like color testing. "We're just trying to find out if your black on the inside because it's the only legal means we have of discriminating against you these days. And life wouldn't be fun if we couldn't discriminate against some one". 
No-one is trying to save money because it can't do that a law like this can only lead to extreme poverty and growing homelessness then you'll have a much bigger problem.  
Rule by discrimination is abuse, it is criminal and it is utterly incompetent. 
The perpetrators of this crime are trying to take attention away from their abject failure at everything else.
People who make decisions like this are guaranteed to drag down the economy they are in charge of. 
Legalize! Apologize! Compensate! And hire some competent management.
Fri, 07/06/2012 - 4:36am Permalink
Michael n Atlanta (not verified)

Nathan Deal is a typical Republican in the State of Georgia. I have lived in Georgia since 1982 and there has never been a time when you couldnt find a job or change jobs in the state of Georgia until the Republican party took over. The reason the Republican party is in office in the state of Georgia has more to do with racism than any other matter. They are definitley not holding office because they have better ideas thats for sure.

Georgia use to be a very progressive state and it definitely was a mover and a shaker. That is no longer the case and you can feel it in the air. Its as though all the air has been let out of the ballon.

If the Democrats dont come back into power in the state of Georgia I am convinced the slide of the state of Georgia will continue at a rapid pace.

There is no reason to test anyone (especially the poor) for drugs. We are not animals. This is a pathetic direction and the fact that Nathan Deal cant see that or make a decision on how stupid this is says more about him than anything he could do. Nathan Deal is not today or will ever be a good Governor.

If we really want to move the state of Georgia forward its time to get rid of the good ol boy networks on both sides of the isle and put them out to pasture, they are killing our admission to the future

. We should be supporting the legalization of Hemp in the state of Georgia and be doing it vigorously shouting from the rafters. It would be worth millions and millions of dollars to the people in the state of Georgia. The state of Georgia could grow 2 crops each and every year. It would propel the state of Georgia into serious amounts of cash and products that can be sold world wide. Hemp production can be used in over 50,000 different products.

Drug testing is draconian, stupid and definitely a step backwards for the state of Georgia or any state

If I was running this state I wouldnt need to wait for the state of Florida to see what Im going to do. Id be a leader, stop all drug testing in the state of Georgia, legalize medical marijuana, legalize the production of Hemp and put the United States government on notice that we will be growing hemp in our state to produce money, jobs and oppurtunities for our people and if you dont like it stick it where the sun doesnt shine..My people in the state of Georgia are what would be important to me.

Fri, 07/06/2012 - 8:23pm Permalink
ProfByron (not verified)

I agree with the general idea that as a taxpayer I should not be required to support this permanent underclass that are currently relying on our money.  This needs to change.  However, drug testing is not the way to make that change.  This drug testing law sends a message saying it is fine to violate the rights and liberties of a group of people.  Yes lets reform welfare but lets also END PROHIBITION!   Its always a bit strange to me that we can't see how we are repeating history here.  In the 1920's the Fed's made alcohol illegal and look at the mess that caused.  Why are we insisting on continuing to repeat the same mistake?  

Wed, 07/11/2012 - 5:55pm Permalink
gurg2k1 (not verified)

So how does adding a new process to acquiring food stamps reduce the cost to tax payers? In Florida, only 2% tested positive. This means that tax payers will be footing the bill to test 98% of recipients as well as the cost of the benefits for those in that 98%. Before this law, tax payers only had to pay for the benefits. Now, they have to pay for benefits and drug testing. How does this save money?
Fri, 07/13/2012 - 4:28pm Permalink

I sympathize with the taxpayers in Georgia who are tired of supporting the lifestyle choices of the irresponsible permanent underclass minority that is so prevalent in Georgia.  This drug testing for welfarers should be implemented.  No need to wait for decisions in other states' courts. No need to defer to the stupidity of blacktivists.  There is still respect for personal freedom in this drug testing measure.  People are free not to take the test.  There is a consequence, yes, but they are still free not to take the test.

Sun, 07/08/2012 - 3:05pm Permalink
Eileen Britt (not verified)

Our national anthem ends with the words land of the free and home of the brave.  It now should state the land of the oppressed and home of the cowards.  Most people who get high can not admit to it for a variety of reasons.  The number one reason is that marijuana is illegal, but if you want to buy marijuana you can find someone who is selling. What most people do not realize that the reason it stays in your system is because it is not toxic to your body.  If it were toxic like alcohol or a number of other "legal" drugs, it would not stay in your system.  In a free society you should be able to what you want as long as you do not cause harm to others.   What really gets me is the fact that people who have no idea of how marijuana affects a person says it should be illegal.  If everyone would smoke marijuana instead of drinking alcohol this world be a better place.

Tue, 07/10/2012 - 12:05am Permalink


It's about time that our country recognized that a lot of Americans like to get high with something other than alcohol. If the government really wants to make people safe then it should legalize every recreational drug that's safer than booze. 
That would keep alcohol as the most harmful recreational drug you can legally buy, but at the same time it would give people the option of legally choosing drugs that are safer than alcohol - and that's definitely NOT something we can do today.
If the government really wants to keep us safe then why is it bending over backwards to make us unsafe?
Wed, 07/11/2012 - 5:29pm Permalink

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