I got an email today from the ACLU of Michigan with the subject line: "Drug Testing the Poor In Flint, Howell Pulls Plug on Free Speech? and more..."
The ACLU-MI often has headlines that don't quite match the substance of the message, and I was particularly struck by the apparent claim that Flint would be instituting random drug testing for all people below a certain income level. Surprisingly, though...that's not actually what's happening.
What is happening is that Flint is planning to randomly drug test residents of public housing. This is an incredibly bad policy choice (it will further alienate those who already are disinclined to trust the government, and it will most likely do little to prevent drug abuse), but it is not, as the ACLU-MI claims, unconstitutional. Effectively, this is a contract issue: those who wish to live in a building must submit to the landlord's (in this case the government's) rules. If those rules include random drug testing, so be it. So long as the drug testing is allowed by the contracts, or only applied to newly renewed leases, there shouldn't be a problem with it.
Nor is there a problem, as the ACLU-MI suggests, with requiring drug testing of public housing residents but not other government-aid beneficiaries or tenants (such as students at public universities). Public housing is a unique environment and it is rational for the government to have different rules for public housing tenants than for college students or welfare recipients.
So, random drug testing for public housing residents is a bad idea, but it's not unconstitutional.