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Required drug tests for welfare recipients in Florida ended up costing taxpayers more than it saved, identified few drug users, and failed to curb the number of applications to the program, according to a report in The New York Times.

During the four months the tests were given — July through October of 2011 — only 2.6 percent of the 4,086 state applicants failed the test, mostly for marijuana use. An additional 40 people canceled the tests without taking them.

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Because the Florida law requires that applicants who pass the test be reimbursed for the cost—an average of $30 — the state had to spend $118,140 on the testing.

This is more than would have been paid out in benefits to the people who failed the test, according to Derek Newton, communications director for the American Civil Liberties Union of Florida, which sued the state last year to stop the testing and recently obtained the documents.

In the end, the state of Florida actually lost $45,780 during the testing period, according to the The Times.

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The four months of drug testing for welfare came to a halt in Florida when a federal district court judge issued a temporary injunction last October. The recently released state data comes on the heels of Georgia installing an almost identical law just this week and other states are planning to do the same. Since Florida Gov. Rick Scott signed the bill into law last year, at least 23 states have considered similar legislation, according to a report in USA Today.  

“Many states are considering following Florida’s example, and the new data from the state shows they shouldn’t,” Newton said in the Times story. “Not only is it unconstitutional and an invasion of privacy, but it doesn’t save money, as was proposed.”

Chris Cinquemani, the vice president of the Foundation for Government Accountability, a Florida-based public policy group that advocates drug testing and recently made a presentation in Georgia, said in the story that more than saving money was at stake.

“The drug testing law was really meant to make sure that kids were protected,” he said, “that our money wasn’t going to addicts, that taxpayer generosity was being used on diapers and Wheaties and food and clothing.”

Read the entire piece at The New York Times.

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