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Mandatory drug testing for welfare applicants is now officially the law in Tennessee. The law, passed in 2012, gives the state permission to screen applicants of the federal Temporary Assistance for Needy Families.
The new law would have applicants answer a series of questions, one of which would ask about drug use. If a person answers “yes”, the applicant would be required to take a drug test. The applicant will be restricted from receiving benefits if they fail a second test six months later.
Although Tennessee’s drug testing plan isn’t as restrictive as Florida’s, it may still be challenged since Florida’s drug testing plan was deemed unconstitutional.
“The court finds there is no set of circumstances under which the warrantless, suspicionless drug testing at issue in this case could be constitutionally applied,”Judge Scriven of the United States District Court in Orlando wrote when ruling on Florida’s testing program.
Florida Gov. Scott responded strongly to Scriven’s decision striking down the law he championed.
“Any illegal drug use in a family is harmful and even abusive to a child,” he said in a statement. “We should have a zero-tolerance policy for illegal drug use in families — especially those families who struggle to make ends meet and need welfare assistance to provide for their children.”
Now it appears as though the ACLU is preparing a challenge to Tennessee’s drug testing program.
According to the Times Free Press, the ACLU-Tennessee says the law “raises serious constitutional concerns” and had urged Gov. Bill Haslam to veto it two years ago, calling it vague, singling out a particular group for differential treatment and allowing “an intrusive search without probable cause.”
“This law singles out limited-income people and requires them to submit to humiliating and intrusive searches of their bodily fluids because they need temporary help making ends meet,” ACLU-Tennessee Executive Director Hedy Weinberg said in a statement.