Just 1 percent of participants in an Indiana workforce training program failed their drug tests, according to the state's Department of Workforce Development.
The department launched its drug testing scheme last July in response to complaints from local businesses that job applicants couldn't pass drug tests, a department spokeswoman said. But of 1,240 job applicants tested from July to December, only 13 failed the test. Three additional people refused to provide a urine sample and seven submitted urine that was too watery.
The Indiana results, which suggest Indiana jobless get high at a lower rate than everyone else, come as Republicans across the country and in Congress clamor for new policies to drug test the poor and unemployed. Though the government's national drug use survey says the jobless are twice as likely to use drugs as the general population, proponents of drug testing haven't cited the survey or specific examples of drug abuse when pushing for stricter policies. Instead they've said drug use is a problem they hear about all the time back home.
"We proposed in the House that states have the ability to drug screen people on unemployment," Rep. Tom Reed (R-N.Y.) said in December. "Why? Take the words of a workforce director back in my congressional district. When he talks to me, he tells me, 'Tom, we spend thousands of dollars trying to reemploy people to get back to work. And then when they go in and take the drug screening test from those potential employers, they fail.' What a waste."
The workforce director in Reed's district, Dan Porter, told HuffPost that over the past three to five years, local businesses report job applicants failing drug tests at a rate of 10 to 30 percent -- but he couldn't provide more precise information.
The low rate of positive tests in Indiana mirrors the experience in Florida, where the local legislature required mandatory drug testing for all welfare applicants over the summer. Just 2.5 percent failed the test before a federal judge halted the initiative on constitutional grounds.
Indiana Workforce Development Commissioner Mark Everson told the Associated Press that Indiana's testing regimen could pass constitutional muster should the American Civil Liberties Union challenge it like the civil rights organization did the Florida law.
Everson said Indiana's drug testing, which cost the state $45,000, at least shooed some people away from the state's job training program. "When people understand you're going to drug test them, they walk away," Everson said. "It discourages people from going through the process."
In the three months before drug testing began, 1,903 people took part in the program. In the next three months, 1,689 participated -- though a department spokeswoman cautioned the start of drug testing coincided with the end of a 2009 stimulus program that helped workers pay the costs of continuing education or training. Precise data on the number of people who participated in that program were not immediately available.
Rep. Dave Camp (R-Mich.), chairman of the Ways and Means Committee in the U.S. House of Representatives, said the panel will hold a hearing on drug use among the unemployed this year.
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