Guest post by Lanny Swerdlow, RN, LNC
Thou Shalt Pee in a Cup
Peeing into a cup has just become more ubiquitous as Congress has passed a law that allows state unemployment agencies to require drug screens of anyone who may have to apply to work for employers with a drug testing policy. This makes unemployment insurance pee testing almost mandatory as a 2006 survey by the Society for Human Resource Management found that 84 percent of employers require new employees to pass drug screens.
Currently states cannot deny unemployment benefits for reasons other than misconduct, fraud or disqualified earnings. Overturning a federal law that prevented states from screening and then drug testing people who apply for unemployment insurance, this new policy will affect mainly lower-wage jobs as jobs with high pay are far less likely to require drug testing.
By having state unemployment agencies pay for drug screens, the new law is a money-saving windfall for businesses that already do drug screens and even encourages employers to just say they are starting drug screen programs as state unemployment agencies will now do the drug screening for them.
According to Bill Piper, Director of National Policy Affairs for the Drug Policy Alliance, “Congress has paired a generous taxpayer subsidy for corporations that drug test with a slap in the face for those struggling to find work, feed their families and keep their homes. The American people have a right to be upset over being forced to subsidize the violation of their civil liberties, when they try to access a program that they pay for with every paycheck.”
Why Drug Testing Doesn’t Really Accomplish Its Goals
Unfortunately, the majority of Americans approve the use of drug testing. Like the lies the government has promulgated regarding marijuana, the government lies about both the efficacy and the reliability of drug testing.
Urine drug screens do not detect the actual presence of drugs, but rather detect a drug’s non-psychoactive metabolites. As a consequence drug tests are really only testing for marijuana as cocaine, methamphetamine and other drugs are expelled by the body in a matter of days after use, but marijuana will stay in a person’s body for up to a month. Hard drug users can pass a drug screen by abstaining for a couple days—not so for those that use marijuana.
Alcohol, the number one drug of choice and arguably the most debilitating of all drugs, is not even tested for. This discourages people from making the safer choice and using marijuana.
Besides making billions for drug screening companies and their associated industries, the new law empowers and escalates the War on Drugs. Drug screens are just one more way the police arm of government empowers itself and continues to exert more and more control over our lives.
Employment drug screens are just the tip of the iceberg as drug screens are also required for insurance, child custody, security clearances, welfare, extra-curricular school activities and staying out of jail if on probation or parole.
The problem, as is true of all our drug prohibition problems, lies directly at the feet of the police/industrial complex. Their control of our political process insures that this $50 billion-a-year trough of taxpayer money will always be overflowing.
This is a political problem that will only be solved when proponents of ending prohibition and replacing it with a policy of harm reduction achieve a modicum of political power. As distasteful as that may sound, it has truly come down to a choice of getting active politically or resigning yourself to peeing in a cup at the discretion and direction of your employer, the police or a government agency.
Lanny Swerdlow, RN, LNC is host of the Internet radio show Marijuana Compassion & Common Sense and founder of the Marijuana Anti Prohibition Project and the Brownie Mary Democratic Club. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.