Does Florida Have Drug Testing for Welfare?

Does Florida Have Drug Testing for Welfare? header graphic

Florida does not conduct drug tests on all welfare applicants, but can legally do so if there is reason to believe the applicant is abusing drugs. While Florida was the first in the country to require drug tests for welfare applicants in 2011, it was overruled by the courts just four months later.

Did Florida previously test all welfare applicants for drugs?

In 2011, Florida passed legislation that made it legal to conduct drug testing on all welfare applicants. It became the first state to both pass and implement this bill. According to the law, all applicants for welfare in the state (known as Temporary Assistance for Needy Families or TANF) were required to pay upfront for the drug testing, only reimbursed if the tests came back negative. The legislation only lasted for four months before the ACLU of Florida stepped in.

A lawsuit filed by the ACLU of Florida stated that drug testing individuals applying for welfare without having any reasonable suspicion was unconstitutional. In 2013, the Circuit Court of Appeals agreed and outlawed such practice.

Why is it illegal to drug test welfare applications in Florida?

The practice was deemed “unconstitutional” based on the fourth amendment.

“The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.”

Welfare recipients successfully argued that their privacy rights were violated and that they were discriminated against because of their financial standing.

Should Florida Drug Test All Welfare Applicants?

In the 16 weeks that Florida ran a drug testing program on all welfare applicants, the data showed that the taxpayer cost of welfare actually went up. According to Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF), out of the 4,086 applicants that were tested, only 108 people (or 2.6%) tested positive for illegal substances. (It is believed that more than 8% of the population of Florida abuses illegal drugs). 

Because the cost to run a required drug-testing program is greater than the cost savings of eliminating 2-3% of welfare recipients that test positive, there’s nothing to gain by implementing this kind of program. Keep in mind, drug testing is already done on a case-by-case if there is suspicion.

What if I’m on welfare and need help with addiction?

Many treatment centers in Florida are not able to accept Medicaid or Medicare insurance. Without insurance, costs are usually five-figures. (Understand it’s a full month of 24/7 housing medical and clinical care). If you’re stuck on JourneyPure, our Suboxone clinics are a more affordable option, but you need to be committed to recovery.

You can also try to search for your zip code, then use the options to filter for Medicaid. Not all drug rehab Florida accept Medicaid, and many that do have a waitlist, so the sooner you call the better.

The 6 Major Welfare Programs - Health, Tax Credit, Food, Social Services, Income


World Population Review: “Welfare Recipients by State.”
Legal Match: “Welfare Drug Testing Legality.”
ACLU: “Just as We Suspected: Florida Saved Nothing by Drug Testing Welfare Applicants.”
Cornell University: “Fourth Amendment.” “Benefits.”


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