Nope, Drug Testing Doesn’t Save Money

The New York Times has some final numbers from the brief time the state of Florida was requiring drug testing for everyone on food stamps. The result: Much lower rates of drug usage (almost entirely marijuana) than the general population and no money saved for the state.

From July through October in Florida — the four months when testing took place before Judge Scriven’s order — 2.6 percent of the state’s cash assistance applicants failed the drug test, or 108 of 4,086, according to the figures from the state obtained by the group. The most common reason was marijuana use. An additional 40 people canceled the tests without taking them.

Because the Florida law requires that applicants who pass the test be reimbursed for the cost, an average of $30, the cost to the state was $118,140. This is more than would have been paid out in benefits to the people who failed the test, Mr. Newton said.

As a result, the testing cost the government an extra $45,780, he said.

And the testing did not have the effect some predicted. An internal document about Temporary Assistance for Needy Families, or TANF, caseloads stated that the drug testing policy, at least from July through September, did not lead to fewer cases.

“We saw no dampening effect on the caseload,” the document said.

Gee, that’s exactly what everyone other than Republicans predicted. How about that.

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  • slc1

    The purpose of the drug tests was to harass and humiliate the recipients, not to prevent people from using money saved by food stamps from buying drugs. It should be noted that members of the administration in Florida and state legislators who also sponge off the government were not required to be tested.

  • Chiroptera

    But pissing on the poor? Priceless.

  • Larry

    And you can believe the assholes whole voted for this debacle think these survey results are skewed and that those who took the test somehow cheated, probably with Obama’s or Soros’ help. Testing must be made mandatory again because everybody knows the poor are on drugs.

  • matty1

    The purpose of the drug tests was to harass and humiliate the recipients, not to prevent people from using money saved by food stamps from buying drugs.

    Was it not also to try and reinforce the narrative that people are poor because they have made bad choices like becoming drug addicts and so justify demonizing instead of helping people? I’m delighted this blew back in the faces of the advocates and provided evidence that poverty is not linked to drug addiction.

  • Matt G

    What? Relying on stereotypes of the poor instead of data? Not in Florida government!

  • Ed:

    It was never about saving money, just redirecting state funds into the pockets of the company who had the contract. That company was majority owned by the Governor of Florida, Rick Scott, until he sold his shares in April, 2011. I wonder; is the SEC aware of that fact–or do they give a fuck–and is there a whiff of “pump and dump” in the air?

  • gopiballava


    Technically speaking, aren’t the poor pissing on us? We’re buying expensive stuff and making them piss on (well, in) it.

  • Correction:

    Scott sold his shares in 2013, for $62M. I’m not the guy who does it but I’m sure somebody who comments here can flex their google-fu and find out what the stock value was over the period of time that the legislation was proposed, signed into law and struck down. It’s just an intellectual exercise.

  • matty1

    @8 The Bloomberg businessweek website lists Solantic as privately held, which I take to mean the shares are not traded on a stock exchange. This might make finding the value a little tricky.

  • Larry, I bet some of them think Soros and Obama secretly provided their own urine to help the test subjects pass the tests.

  • Trebuchet

    @10: But Obama is a coke-head. I know it’s true, I saw it on the internet!

  • They had to test for them! Don’t you know how many drug junkies sign up for that sweet $140/month? Why, I bet the reason so few people failed the tests was because during the testing period they were giving their The Marihuana to their children that they had just so they could get another sweet sweet pile of TANF cash.

    Wake up, people! This means we have to test their children!

  • matty1

    Proposed law:

    Where any legislation or executive order places requirements on the recipients of government funds that are not directly linked to the purpose of the funds, required by the constitution (e.g a religious charity demonstrating they don’t spend government cash on proselytising) or necessary for the governments own financial record keeping – then the same requirements must be imposed on all elected office holders and any appointed office holder who reports directly to an elected office holder.

  • Jordan Genso

    If I’m working the numbers correctly, the NYT article is saying that food stamps only cost around $500 per person?

    Florida was willing to spend $30 per person to try and save $500 per individual that failed the test. So they would need around a 6% failure rate just to break even.