Pubdate: Fri, 20 Jul 2001
Source: Daily Comet (LA)
Copyright: 2001 Comet-Press Newspapers Inc.
Note: Letter writers must provide phone number for verification


Let's assume, for the sake of argument, that drug testing is 100 percent 

The Boss Man and the insurance company can tell absolutely whether a 
particular worker or insuree has smoked marijuana within the past month or so.

Cocaine use can be detected with certainty if the test is done within days 
of the drug's use.

The relics of other drug use can be plucked from the worker's urine as if 
it were so much gold.

The Boss Man can be sure. The insurer can be sure. And the parole officer 
can be sure.

So what's the problem?

The problem is that it still doesn't tell anyone anything other than the 
fact that some drug was consumed within the past X number of days. Even a 
test that is 100 percent accurate cannot pinpoint when or how the drug use 
took place.

A person who attends a concert or passes a pot-smoker on a sidewalk gets 
marijuana smoke in his or her system, and it would show up on a completely 
accurate test.

That means the innocent passerby will be denied a job or insurance coverage 
or will be fired simply because of some arbitrary rule about what chemicals 
can and can't be present in his or her bloodstream.

Of course, it's even worse than that because drug tests are absolutely not 
100 percent accurate and are, therefore, one of the most invasive 
violations of our rights without any countervailing benefit.

There are false positives, false negatives and inconclusive results. Yet 
each result is treated as Gospel truth, and each person who - God help him 
- - tests positive is treated as a criminal.

In addition to the troubling privacy implications (most of which pass 
without comment because, after all, it only affects the guilty, right?), 
drug testing is becoming more and more ingrained in the employment culture.

I had time to think about these and other issues as I waited more than two 
hours Wednesday to take a drug test.

On weekends, I bartend in the French Quarter and pull down enough money to 
enable me to pursue my writing hobby.

For varied reasons, I never passed fully through the employment process 
until recently, and the last step of that process was the drug "screening."

I couldn't help but notice the irony of my employer giving a drug test to 
an employee whose primary function is to make and serve alcoholic beverages.

Yes, alcohol is legal and marijuana is illegal, but which causes more 
deaths each year?

Fortunately, I don't have to worry about failing the test (unless I fall 
victim to the dreaded false positive), but that's no reason not to be 
offended at being asked to take it.

It's surprising in this age of privacy (At many companies, it is a 
violation of policy to even give recommendations because to do so might 
violate the former employee's right to privacy.) that prospective employees 
are subjected to an inspection of their bodily fluids.

But, I guess we have the insurance companies to thank for all of that 
foolishness, much like the disappearance of diving boards from most 
swimming pools.

And everyone knows insurance companies don't take notice of a problem 
unless lawyers bring their attention to it.

So, at the bottom of it all, who can we blame for having to urinate in a 
cup before serving a beer? The lawyers.

This column probably suggests I've given this matter way too much thought, 
but as I mentioned, I had about four hours to kill while waiting for my 
rights to be violated.
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MAP posted-by: Jo-D