Since the state began testing welfare applicants for drugs in July, about 2 percent have tested positive, preliminary data shows.
Ninety-six percent proved to be drug free — leaving the state on the hook to reimburse the cost of their tests.
The initiative may save the state a few dollars anyway, bearing out one of Gov. Rick Scott’s arguments for implementing it. But the low test fail-rate undercuts another of his arguments: that people on welfare are more likely to use drugs.
At Scott’s urging, the Legislature implemented the new requirement earlier this year that applicants for temporary cash assistance pass a drug test before collecting any benefits.
The law, which took effect July 1, requires applicants to pay for their own drug tests. Those who test drug-free are reimbursed by the state, and those who fail cannot receive benefits for a year.
More than once, Scott has said publicly that people on welfare use drugs at a higher rate than the general population. The 2 percent test fail rate seen by DCF, however, does not bear that out.
According to the 2009 National Survey on Drug Use and Health, performed by the U.S. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services, 8.7 percent of the population nationally over age 12 uses illicit drugs. The rate was 6.3 percent for those ages 26 and up.
A 2008 study by the Office of National Drug Control Policy also showed that 8.13 percent of Floridians age 12 and up use illegal drugs.
Newton said that’s proof the drug-testing program is based on a stereotype, not hard facts.
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