AUGUSTA – The American Civil Liberties Union of Maine on Monday called on Republican Gov. Paul LePage’s administration to halt plans to require some welfare recipients to receive drug tests, which it says is unconstitutional.

At a public hearing on the proposed rule change, Oamshri Amarasingham, the ACLU’s public policy counsel, said the government must have a warrant based on probable cause to get a drug test except in limited circumstances.

“In addition to violating the constitution, the proposed rule represents unsound fiscal policy, leaves many critical questions unanswered and gives credence to harmful and false stereotypes.”

LePage’s administration recently announced that it will begin enforcing a 2011 law that allows the state to test recipients and applicants who’ve been convicted of drug-related felonies.

Other groups, like the Maine Association of Substance Abuse Programs, also opposed the plan on Monday.

The ACLU has taken legal action against several states that have sought to implement drug testing requirements. Last year, a federal judge struck down a Florida law requiring all applicants for welfare benefits to undergo mandatory drug testing.


Department of Health and Human Services Commissioner Mary Mayhew said the administration has examined the legal challenges in other states and believes Maine’s law, which is narrower, would withstand a legal challenge.

The administration also is interested in expanding the drug testing requirement to even more recipients, Mayhew said. She declined to provide further details.

She said that the goal is to ensure that benefits are going to those who need it most and to help recipients move from welfare to work.

“We are seeing families torn apart in the state as a result of drug abuse,” she said. “This proposal is intended to reinforce the purpose of this benefit to support vulnerable families with young children and to help them on a pathway to employment.”

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