Pubdate: 11 May 2000
Source: Arlington Morning News (TX)
Copyright: 2000 The Arlington Morning News
Author: Robert Sharpe
Related: the original article this PUB LTE refers to may be found at


Once again a politician is using drug war hysteria to manipulate the public 
and appear "tough on drugs." U.S. Rep. Joe Barton's proposal to drug test 
members of Congress is misguided. In this case, it's merely a waste of tax 
dollars - I doubt any Congressmen will test positive. However, if drug 
testing increases nationwide, hard drug use will rise and African-Americans 
will be disproportionately punished.

Both hair tests and urinalysis are highly problematic. Urinalysis is 
virtually useless when it come to detecting hard drugs. As such, it can 
have the counterproductive effect of encouraging hard drug use when forced 
upon smokers of relatively harmless marijuana. An employee who uses heroin 
or crack on a Friday night will test clean on Monday morning, whereas 
marijuana use might lead to a positive test. This is one of the reasons 
heroin use is on the rise. Drug testing profiteers (and politicians) do not 
readily volunteer this information, for obvious reasons.

The shortcomings of hair testing are far more sinister. Dark-haired 
individuals are more likely to test positive when hair tests are used, 
while fair-haired drug users have a good chance of escaping detection. As 
such, whites are spared detection while blacks are penalized. This inherent 
racial bias is reason enough to avoid using hair tests, especially in light 
of the fact that African-Americans already bear the brunt of anti-drug 
enforcement. I would like to think that preserving the integrity of the 
Constitution's Bill of Rights is more important than preserving the failed 
drug war.

Robert Sharpe
Students for Sensible Drug Policy
George Washington University
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