The US 6th Circuit Court of Appeals in
Cincinnati upheld the state of Michigan's use of mandatory drug testing of
welfare recipients in an opinion issued October 18. Michigan welfare
officials had attempted to implement welfare drug testing three years ago,
but after the Michigan ACLU challenged the plan in court, US District Judge
Victoria Roberts issued a temporary injunction blocking it in November 1999.
A three-judge appeals court panel -- all
appointed by former President George Bush -- ruled that random drug testing
of welfare recipients is a justifiable method of protecting children, the
public, and tax dollars from abuse. It further held that the state can deny
benefits to anyone who tests positive for illegal drugs.
Michigan politicians and bureaucrats were
happy, the Detroit Free Press reported. Gov. John Engler (R-MI) hailed the
ruling, saying "testing and treatment for welfare recipients for drug use is
consistent with our goal of helping them reach true self-sufficiency." And
both candidates to replace Engler, Democratic Attorney General Jennifer
Granholm and Republican Lt. Gov. Dick Posthumus said they would implement
the program if elected. Granholm had earlier called the program "degrading
and humiliating," but has had a change of heart in the heat of the campaign.
The Michigan ACLU was not so pleased. "Our
concern is that this can really open up the door to uncontrolled government
surveillance in every aspect of our lives," said the group's Mary Moss.
"What about students who take out student loans or taxpayers who take
deductions?" Moss said the group would appeal. "We see the Fourth Amendment
being whittled away," she said.
The court's opinion may be viewed online