Indiana was among the states where Republicans pushed laws requiring drug tests for various government benefits in 2011, and the state GOP successfully passed a version requiring unemployed workers to undergo drug tests for unemployment benefits or to participate in the state’s job training program. Anyone who didn’t pass such a test, the law stated, was considered to have “refused an offer of suitable work.”
In the immediate wake of the laws, little evidence has emerged that they were necessary. The first round of drug tests on those participating in the job training program, in fact, yielded just a 1 percent rate of failure, the Huffington Post’s Arthur Delaney reported today:
Just 1 percent of participants in an Indiana workforce training program failed their drug tests, according to the state’s Department of Workforce Development.
The department launched its drug testing scheme last July in response to complaints from local businesses that job applicants couldn’t pass drug tests, a department spokeswoman said. But of 1,240 job applicants tested from July to December, only 13 failed the test. Three additional people refused to provide a urine sample and seven submitted urine that was too watery.
Though conservatives around the country have been pushing similar laws — Florida Gov. Rick Scott (R) signed a law requiring drug testing for recipients of welfare benefits in 2011 — and though government data suggests that those on benefits are twice as likely to use drugs as those who aren’t, outright evidence from the states has thus far yielded little evidence. In Florida, only 2 percent of welfare recipients failed the first round of tests, meaning the program isn’t likely to save much money, if any at all. If the 1 percent numbers hold up in Indiana, it isn’t likely to save a significant amount of money either, and like in Florida, the cost of the program could actually outpace the savings from it.
Meanwhile, should these laws face lawsuits, those challenges would likely succeed. As UCLA law professor Adam Winkler wrote after the Florida law passed, “Random-drug testing is what is known as a ‘suspicion-less search,’” and in most instances, courts have “generally frowned upon” drug testing that occurs without probable cause. “Indeed,” Winkler added, “courts have struck down policies just like the ones put in place by Florida.”