ACLU eyes lawsuit against TN welfare drug-testing law

News release from American Civil Liberties Union-Tennessee
NASHVILLE – A new law mandating drug testing for some Temporary Assistance to Needy Families (TANF) applicants goes into effect today. The American Civil Liberties Union of Tennessee (ACLU-TN) lobbied against the legislation and opposes the law, which raises serious constitutional concerns.

The state legislature passed the drug testing law, T.C.A. § 71-3-1201-1206, in 2012 and gave the Tennessee Department of Human Services two years to develop a plan for implementing the drug-testing program.

ACLU-TN had sent a letter to Governor Haslam urging him to veto the bill, citing concerns that the bill was unconstitutional because it was vague, singled out a particular group for differential treatment, and allowed for an intrusive search without probable cause.

The following can be attributed to Hedy Weinberg, executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Tennessee:

“This law singles out limited-income people and requires them to submit to humiliating and intrusive searches of their bodily fluids because they need temporary help making ends meet. Research indicates that TANF recipients are no more likely to use illicit drugs than farmers, veterans, and students, who also receive government support. ACLU-TN wants to hear from any potential TANF recipients who do not want to submit to the required drug testing.”

TANF-eligible Tennesseans who are concerned about how this law will affect them should contact ACLU-TN at