Pubdate: Fri, 28 Dec 2001
Source: Hendersonville Times-News (NC)
Copyright: 2001 Hendersonville Newspaper Corporation
Author: Joel Burgess
Bookmark: (Drug Testing)


MARIETTA, S.C. -- Bodily fluids do not often make headlines. But urine has
made Kenneth Curtis both famous and infamous.

Curtis was convicted in a Greenville, S.C., court Dec. 14 under a 1999 South
Carolina law that made it a crime to sell urine to defraud drug screening
tests. He continues, however, to insist on national television and in local
newspaper interviews that the government and employers are violating the
rights of those subjected to the widely used procedure.

While waiting for his appeal, which could take two or more years, a judge
has ordered the 43-year-old former pipe fitter not to leave South Carolina
and not to sell any more urine. 

Curtis faces six months in jail on the felony conviction and could be sent
to prison for six years if he is caught selling urine while waiting for the
appeal or while on probation.

"My issue is, I don't think free Americans ought to have to submit to
invasive testing because of the actions of a few reckless individuals,"
Curtis said while standing Wednesday near his home and the current
headquarters of his business, Privacy Protection Services.

Whatever the courts and the public may think about him, Curtis has not lost
his vigor for the cause.

His license plate promotes his unconventional business: "WEPEE4U," it says.

Moved to N.C.

North Carolina has no law regarding the sale of urine for drug tests. So
after South Carolina lawmakers made the practice a felony three years ago
Curtis moved his business to Hendersonville. He still has 500 gallons of
frozen stock at an office at 502 West Allen St., he said.

But soon Curtis may find that North Carolina becoming less hospitable.

N.C. Rep. Trudi Walend, R-Brevard, has promised to push through legislation
similar to South Carolina's. The two-term legislator could not be reached
for comment Wednesday or Thursday. In a letter to the Times-News on
Wednesday, however, Walend said she drafted a bill in 2001 mirroring the
South Carolina law, but was unable to get legislators to vote on it.

"I contacted the lead bill drafting attorney and renewed the work to pass
this law in 2002," she wrote. "Surely every legislator will vote to make it
illegal in North Carolina to sell urine to help people cheat on drug tests."

N.C. Rep. Larry Justus, R-Henderson County, applauded Walend's efforts and
said he would support the bill. The veteran legislator said he championed
more drug bills than any other representative and did not believe Curtis was
selling his kits in the name of civil rights.

"I don't believe that," Justus said. "He's selling them because he has a
good market for it -- people that want to avoid detection on a drug test."

Hendersonville police also support some kind of legislation. Capt. John
Nicholson said officers spoke with the N.C. Attorney General's Office but
found no state law governing Curtis' type of business. 

"It might be something where some new legislation could be initiated and
passed," he said earlier this month.

Fighting the Law

Curtis said Walend and other legislators were only trying "to get her name
on something." She would regret the legislation, just as S.C. Sen. David L.
Thomas, R-Greenville, regretted sponsoring his state's version of the law,
he said.

But Thomas, who has debated Curtis on such programs as the Montel Williams
Show and the Today Show, expressed no regret during a phone interview this

The law protects employers and the public, Thomas said. The issue of whether
urine tests actually promote safety, as Curtis disputes, is moot, he added,
because the federal government has decided the procedure should be used.

"What's important is that the federal government believes there is a
correlation," Thomas said, adding, "(Curtis) is trying to make a buck and
wrap himself in the flag for protection."

Curtis insists profit did not motivate him to go into business. "Most of it
has gone to lawyer fees," he said. Businessmen that sell similar urine kits
anonymously are the ones who make money, he said. 

"I don't use drugs. I don't support drug use," he said. "Selling urine is a
soap box -- a platform."

Curtis said he supports noninvasive impairment testing, like daily manual
dexterity or pupil dilation checks, for workers dealing with potentially
dangerous equipment. Such tests would not violate the constitutional
prohibition against unreasonable search and seizure, he said.

When he heard the South Carolina law was in the works, Curtis said he
approached legislators in Columbia and said he would stop selling urine if
they worked with him and did not pass the law. But he had no takers. 

Once it became illegal to sell or donate urine for screening tests he
actually tried to get arrested by giving kits to local law enforcement.
Police sent him away. But later, after undercover agents bought three kits
from Curtis, officers raided his office outbuilding and arrested him.

Now Curtis continues to sell his kits minus the urine -- for $49, rather
than $69. The package he mails out includes a syringe, and empty plastic
intravenous packet with a tube and clips, a thermometer, a heating element,
duct tape and instructions. The kit used to supply 150 cubic centimeters of
Curtis' own guaranteed drug-free urine. Now customers have to find their
own, he said.

Used as instructed, the kit allows people being tested to substitute urine
in the packet for their own without being detected.

He has sold kits since 1995 to more than 100,000 customers around the world,
Curtis said. The contents, though, could be assembled at any corner
drugstore, he said.

"I find it interesting that one person like me can foil a billion-dollar
industry with just these things," he said.
- ---
MAP posted-by: Doc-Hawk