Almost two dozen states are considering measures that would require welfare recipients to undergo drug testing, the Associated Press reports.
Although the measures are popular because of a perception that people on public assistance are using state funds to buy drugs, statistics have largely shown that to be untrue, the AP notes.
Critics of the bills point out that courts have struck down similar programs on the grounds they amount to an unconstitutional search.
Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney has said he supports drug testing of welfare recipients. Fellow candidate Newt Gingrich has said he considers testing as a way to curb drug use and lower related costs to public programs.
The 2010 National Survey on Drug Use and Health found an estimated 22.6 million Americans aged 12 or older—8.9 percent of the population—were current illicit drug users. A random drug testing program in Michigan showed a similar percentage of its public assistance applicants tested positive.
In September 2011, Florida found its welfare applicants were less likely than Americans in general to use drugs. The state compiled the figures as part of a state law that required drug tests for welfare applicants. In October, a federal judge halted the Florida law, ruling it may violate the Constitution’s ban on unreasonable searches and seizures.