Constitutional Analysis of Suspicionless Drug Testing Requirements for the Receipt of Governmental Benefits [March 6, 2015]   [open pdf - 292KB]

"For decades, federal policymakers and state administrators of governmental assistance programs, such as the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) block grants (formerly Aid to Families with Dependent Children (AFDC)), the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP, formerly Food Stamps), the Section 8 Housing Choice Voucher program, and their precursors, have expressed concern about the 'moral character' and worthiness of beneficiaries. For example, the Anti-Drug Abuse Act of 1988 made individuals who have three or more convictions for certain drug-related offenses permanently ineligible for various federal benefits. A provision in the Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act of 1996 went a step further by explicitly authorizing states to test TANF beneficiaries for illicit drug use and to sanction recipients who test positive. Some policymakers have shown a renewed interest in conditioning the receipt of governmental benefits on passing drug tests. For example, in February 2012, the President signed into law an amendment to the Social Security Act that authorizes states to condition the receipt of certain unemployment compensation benefits on passing drug tests. Additionally, lawmakers in a majority of states reportedly proposed legislation in 2011, 2012, 2013, and/or 2014 that would require drug testing beneficiaries of governmental assistance under certain circumstances, while at least 12 state governments over that time have enacted such legislation."

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CRS Report for Congress, R42326
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