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ACLU-NC Applauds Governor's Veto of Drug Testing Bill

RALEIGH –North Carolina Gov. Pat McCrory today vetoed H.B. 392, a measure that would have required applicants to the state’s Work First program to submit to costly and invasive drug tests. Gov. McCrory called the measure “a recipe for government overreach and unnecessary government intrusion” that “is not a smart way to combat drug abuse.”

Jennifer Rudinger, executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union of North Carolina, released the following statement:

“We applaud the governor’s veto of a measure that would have opened the door to costly and unnecessary government intrusions into the physical privacy of North Carolinians who need public assistance to care for their families. Our state and federal constitutions protect the privacy and dignity of all North Carolinians against unreasonable searches, and all available evidence has shown that welfare applicants are no more likely to use drugs than the general public. In fact, the evidence suggests that their rate of drug use is lower than that of the general public. Forcing people in need to pay up front for an invasive test without reasonable suspicion of drug use would have been cruel, costly, and constitutionally suspect. We are very pleased the governor has rejected this measure.”

On July 31, the American Civil Liberties Union of North Carolina (ACLU-NC), the North Carolina Justice Center, and the Southern Coalition for Social Justice sent a letter to Gov. McCrory, asking him to veto the bill.

In 2011, a Florida law that mandated drug tests for all applicants of the state’s Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) program was halted just months after it went into effect after the ACLU of Florida challenged the law and a federal court ruled the program unconstitutional. The 11th Circuit Court of Appeals later unanimously upheld that decision.

In the four months that Florida's law was in place, the state drug tested 4,086 TANF applicants. A mere 108 individuals tested positive. To put it another way, only 2.6 percent of applicants tested positive for illegal drugs — a rate more than three times lower than the 8.13 percent of all Floridians, age 12 and up, estimated by the federal government to use illegal drugs.