Antidrug Idea: More Tests in U.S.

Antidrug Idea: More Tests in U.S.
Posted by CN Staff on November 28, 2002 at 20:44:44 PT
World News
Source: Miami Herald
In a speech that went largely unnoticed in the rest of the world, Colombian President Alvaro Uribe recently proposed a bold step in the war on narco-terrorism: that Americans and Europeans submit themselves to mass drug tests.Is such an idea worth pursuing? Or was it just a rhetorical salvo by a president eager to grab the next day's headlines?
In his speech last Friday to an international conference of prosecutors in Cartagena, Colombia, Uribe turned to one of the participating officials, U.S. Deputy Assistant Attorney General Mary Lee Warren, and suggested that Americans should do more to help reduce drug consumption.''It would be great, Ms. Deputy Assistant of the United States, if your people would give an example to the world by having the citizenry submit itself to antidrug tests,'' Uribe said. ``That would help us fight consumption and would give encouragement to our people.''In a telephone interview, I asked the Colombian president whether he is proposing that all 280 million Americans submit themselves to random drug tests, or whether he was just talking metaphorically.''Ideally, it should be the entire population,'' Uribe said. ``But realistically, we should start with the universe of people with high positions in the public and private sectors. That would send a clear, forceful signal to the rest of society.''He added, ``One way of doing it would be requiring a drug test as a condition to join the public service. All officials hired for state or federal government jobs could be required to undergo these tests.'' EXTENT OF TESTING Interesting. Currently, about 360,000 U.S. federal employees in safety-sensitive or national security-related positions -- including President Bush -- undergo mandatory pre-hiring drug tests, and about a third of them also undergo annual random tests, U.S. officials say. But the remainder of the estimated 1.6 million federal employees are not subject to such tests, except when there are suspicions of drug abuse, they say.In the private sector, one of the largest private drug-testing companies, Quest Diagnostics, reports conducting 6.3 million drug tests a year. The firm conducts about a third of all drug tests each year in the United States, which means that private companies may perform close to 20 million drug tests a year, U.S. officials say.And this year, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that school districts can force the nation's 23 million middle- and high-school students to take drug tests before they are allowed to join extracurricular activities such as bands, choirs or chess clubs. Until then, only school athletes could be asked to undergo those tests.I'm not surprised by Uribe's proposal. For many years, Colombians have been complaining -- rightfully -- that the U.S. war on drugs will never be won unless the United States reduces its cocaine addiction. The United States, the largest drug-consuming country in the world, consumes about 350 tons of cocaine a year, more than a third of the world's overall consumption.Colombians, Mexicans, Bolivians and people from several other drug-exporting nations are often appalled by news reports of widespread use of cocaine in Hollywood, on Wall Street, and even by public officials, such as former Washington Mayor Marion Barry. While U.S. governments ask them to fight the war on drugs, the biggest problem is happening right under Washington's nose, they say.Asked about Uribe's idea that the United States and Europe drastically expand drug tests, U.S. officials say much of it is already going on, although silently. But making it mandatory for all public employees or private-sector executives would pose difficult constitutional challenges, they say.''It's an interesting idea that has been quietly gaining ground in the United States over the past few years, especially in the private sector,'' said Tom Riley, a spokesman for the White House Drug Policy Office, referring to Uribe's proposal. ``In the military, drug consumption has dropped dramatically since they started testing. When people know they have to undergo drug tests, it affects their behavior.'' CONSTITUTIONAL ISSUE  Not so, says Graham Boyd, head of the drug litigation program of the American Civil Liberties Union. Uribe's proposal is a nonstarter, he says, because indiscriminate drug testing is prohibited by the U.S. Constitution and international human rights treaties, which protect Americans against unreasonable government searches.What's more, currently used urine tests are much more effective in finding marijuana than cocaine or heroin traces, Boyd said. ''Indiscriminate drug testing could be counterproductive, because it would basically signal people to shift from marijuana to cocaine and heroin,'' Boyd said.My conclusion: Don't be surprised if the Bush administration moves to encourage wider use of drug tests. The trend was growing anyway, and the combination of greater international pressure and growing U.S. emphasis on safety and national security may push conservatives in Washington to seek new exceptions to the constitutional privacy protections against drug tests.Note: Colombian proposes it.Source: Miami Herald (FL)Published: Thursday November 28, 2002 Copyright: 2002 The Miami HeraldContact: heralded herald.comWebsite: Related Articles & Web Sites:ACLU Drug War News Testing Would Dry Up Demand, Colombia Says Commits to War Against Drugs 
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Comment #2 posted by AlvinCool on November 29, 2002 at 09:23:15 PT
I use this in my arguments
This is one of the arguments that I use when people tell me that if we just stopped people from using marijuana how glorious the world would become.I tell them that I have a magic button and that if I press it all marijuana in the world would vanish. Then I tell them that it's not realistic that those people, that used marijuana, would not seek other outlets hoping that they could find something like marijuana that relaxes them and provides them with a similar experience. I ask them just how much worse the cocaine, heroin, estacy, alcohol and meth problems are going to be and how much the crime rate to support this type and extent of actual addiction will be.It's very thought provoking and actually makes people think. It's a very effective arguement.
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Comment #1 posted by pokesmotter on November 28, 2002 at 20:59:23 PT:
this is not getting media coverage
and it won't i don't think. i think we can all understand uribe's frustration with our country. on another note: "The trend was growing anyway..." drug testing is a trend?? it was growing? sounds like a fad to me. i will tell you what's not a fad: our government ignoring people who say what they don't want to hear.
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