Wednesday, February 04, 2009

Hypocrisy Continues - The Drug Test - Rant Part ll

I guess the ostracizing of Michael Phelps has fired me up on this whole drug thing. Tonight's rant is well, my title says it all, Drug Testing.

One site pushing these stupid and expensive tests leads in with, "Don't hire an Accident". Fine. Great idea. To try and weed out potential losers before they even come on board. But it seems to me that unless a test can be made that is absolutely accurate as to the present condition of the potential employee, they are not useful in the slightest.

At this point there is no test for Alcoholism. That is only found through previous records, admitting it, or by watching ensuing behaviour. A blood sample, a breathalyzer, a piss test, all of them only indicate a few hours of what is going on inside that person. A pot test on the other hand only tells the potential employer that it has been in the system at some point. Of the two types of tests most use, one shows a thirty day window. The other can show pot in the system as far back as the oldest hair they test. None of the tests confirm nor deny modes of behaviour. A smart abuser will find ways around them.

The failings of the tests themselves are one thing. But what about the fact that most drug tests are only used on employees below a certain level. Unless every employee, including the president is tested and tested regularly, then the idea of a drug free workplace is garbage. A drunk or drugged machine operator has the potential to cause harm in a very localized manner. A drunk or drugged manager has the potential through poor or unethical decision making to spread that harm much further. Yet most drug tests are only performed at the factory floor level. Mid managers and upper management all too often get to skate. It is not even about fairness, it's about who has the potential to do the most damage. While I do not want machine operators operating drunk or stoned, I definitely do not want drunk or stoned managers releasing the fruit of the factory labors onto the unsuspecting public more I think.

When my first bike shop closed, I was in a panic. I needed an income and needed one as soon as possible. So I went to the local temp service. The nice lady gave me an application to fill out. On this application were many blanks to fill. What type of experience I had. What type of equipment I could operate. What type of work I was looking for. On and on. Near the bottom where I signed my name was a blank that wanted me to initial as having read the brief rule and agreed to it. It stated that I would agree to a drug test should the employer I was assigned to require it.

Standard stuff I am sure. But I hesitated there for the longest period. I was not afraid of a drug test. But I balked at having to agree to taking one. It pissed me off. So I left it blank and handed the almost complete app to the nice lady. She went over the application with a fine tooth comb. She asked me some questions about previous experience. And then she spotted the blank drug test blank.

"Sir, you missed this one blank."

"Uh, which blank?"

"The one about agreeing to a drug test if one is requested."

"No, I did not miss it. I chose to not fill it out. I won't agree to a drug test."

"So sir, this makes it look like you use drugs."

"I see. My failure to agree to a drug test means I am a drug user?"

"Uh yes sir that would be how I read it."

"I see. So drug tests are assumptions of guilt rather than presumptions of innocence? In this country it used to be proof was needed to prove someone guilty. Now I guess that is no longer the case. Take your application and shove it up your ass."

And I walked out.

Some ideals are more important than a paycheck.

And this is my biggest beef with drug tests. Their very existence means we have to prove our innocence. In my opinion this idea runs so far off what our forefathers meant when they set this all up, I cannot believe that we take this crap like it is no more than an inconvenient pain in the ass. Each time you take a drug test you are giving away some of the rights you had when you were born.

I will be the first one to concede that any private company has the right to drug test in any manner they want. It is up to them. It is also my right to not work there without assholes like that woman automatically assuming I am a drug user and am afraid of being caught. What I do not understand is how the working public is so blind to this fundamental ceding of one of our basic rights. I do not understand how we allow the private sector to get away with this type of crap that does nothing but intimidate and makes no real headway in solving the problem of substance abuse at work.

I will not work for any company who uses drug tests to intimidate the employees. And I would strongly support anyone else who makes the same committment. They are un-American in my opinion.
(923 / 3212)


Bull said...

Been reading this all with interest. I've spent the last 19 years of my life in an organization that requires drug testing - and even though I'm the "captain" when my name comes up I go and muster and provide my sample.

It's just a fact of life for me. When I am finally "rung ashore" and have to figure out what I want to do when I grow up, I wonder how I'll look at. Your pointing out of the inequality is somewhat shocking; again, 19 years in a culture where EVERYONE has to pee if his/her number comes up.

Interesting story - two Boston firefighters died last year when they responded to a fire right after coming off vacation. Each had levels of either alcohol or cocaine in their systems high enough to be considered "impaired". Big push by fire commissioner (former ship captain, US Navy) and mayor for mando drug testing of fire dept. Union won't hear of it without a 14% pay raise, and deems the toxicology results of the autopsies "not relevant" to the investigation. Big mess. Still not resolved.

PipeTobacco said...

Mr. McCrum:

I have enjoyed your commentary greatly the last two days and pose the following to think about:

1. I do not feel drug testing is appropriate for private industry any more than I feel it is appropriate for any governmental agency. Why should a private company have a right to violate our civil liberties just because it is a private corporation?

2. The whole drug testing issue is frustrating because they focus on ANY use... not use or impairment in the workplace. For me, I do not really care if a person drinks or smokes marijuana in his/her off time as long as the person is not impaired AT WORK.

3. I wonder how the testing works in states like California where people can have a legal prescription for marijuana? I would imagine (at least to be fair) that if you had a legal prescription for marijuana you would not be able to be fired for it being found in your blood test. I could be wrong however.

To me, the whole Phelps thing is silly. He is a young adult, and he was smoking marijuana. Not exactly an Earth shattering scenario.

I have never tried marijuana, myself, but I presume it is probably a helluva lot like being half crocked from drinking alcohol, which I have done.


Trukindog said...

I'm a commercial truck driver & though I disagree with mandatory drug testing I have to comply to keep my CDL.

What bothers me most though is when I was in a minor fender bender I HAD to be tested even though it was clearly the 80 year old ladys fault. When I asked the officer if she was going to be tested he said "no, for what" I said she could be on medication that impairs her driving ability, just because it's a legal scrip doesn't mean it's OK for her to drive impaired. Heres the kicker, she was not tested OR CITED for cutting me off and causing the accident.
Yeah thats fairness for ya!

MRMacrum said...

Bull - The fire department thing. Was anyone else hurt or killed as a result? All the testing did was point to a possibility of blame. The test in no way can say they died because they had a certain arbitrary amount in their system.

The government is the worse instigator in this fraud. Neither drug testing or keeping drugs illegal is going to keep someone from what they want. I am way more concerned about the affect alcohol abuse has on our society than someone smoking pot. Yet one is legal and the other is not. We are being fooled if we think the premptive measures help. In my opinion instead of building more jails, hiring more DEA agents, we should be working the problem from the rehabilitation and preventative end.

Pipe Tobacco - Maybe it is not appropriate for the private sector. But this is a country that values certain rights and it is any company's right as a private entity to run it's business any way it wants provided it is wiht in th elaw that would affect that company. I think it sucks that they do it, but I will support their choice if that is what they want. I just won't work for them.

Interesting point about medicinal pot in California. I wonder if there are ways around it. Like proclaiming before the test they are on subscibed pot.

Trukindog - I already posted another comment in your blog about your trucking and my 17 years of it.

Do you think the mandatory testing of CDL licensed drivers is having a positive effect?

Snave said...

Mac, there is a song you should check out. You can probably find it on iTunes. It is one of the best political songs of all time in my less=than-humble opinion, and it is called "I Ain't Gonna Piss in No Jar", performed by the amazing Mojo Nixon. He sums it up just about perfectly, in a hilariously scatological manner. It was recorded about 20 years ago, so there are some funny Reagan references in it. Please, check it out; find it, download it. Mac, if you don't download songs or have access, e-mail me. I will put it on a CD for you and mail it to you. I've listened to it a few hundred times and it still makes me howl with righteous laughter.

I left a comment about what I think of drug testing in your previous post, and as promised, I will blabber some more about it here.

I love a good conspiracy theory, so here's one for you. How did all this silly "Reefer Madness" junk get started, anyway? How did marijuana come to be demonized and how did the lines get blurred between pot and industrial hemp?

One theory (and it is just a theory, mind you) is that a fellow invented a machine called a "decorticator" back in the 20's. It had the ability to separate and process the usable parts of hemp, and it might have made hemp into America's biggest cash crop, practically overnight. One hemp product that is of much higher quality than what we get from trees is paper.

At that time, William Randolph Hearst had quite a lot of money invested in the timber industry, which produces America's paper. The theory goes that because of this he didn't want competition, and the campaign to demonize hemp began in earnest. A disinformation campaign was started about all the supposed "evils" of marijuana. Thus, collective American wisdom because "marijuana = evil" and "marijuana = hemp", therefore "hemp = evil". We have been stuck in that mode for the last 70+ years, and I doubt we will ever get out of it.

Maybe there is nothing to that, maybe that's how it got started, maybe not... but it seems reasonable to me to suggest that in America (or anywhere, given human nature) if something threatens one powerful person or group's ability to make money, there will be an effort to preserve that ability to make money.

I have never had to take a drug test for work. It has been so long since anything illegal has entered my system now that were I to take the test there wouldn't be any reason to fear failing it. I resent the idea of having to do one, but I know that my odd sense of humor has to be kept somewhat in check at work or I could be asked to take one. I work in public schools, a system which is more and more under the puritan microscope these days.

Phelps? Oh, that's what we were talking about to begin with! (Sorry about that!)

Because pot is illegal, because so many people are afraid of pot, and because Phelps is a high profile young athlete and is therefore a role model for America's youth, it could well be damaging to his career. It doesn't bother me that much, but I suppose about 3/4 of the rest of the country would beg to differ.

If kids see a snapshot on the news of Phelps taking a bong hit, how different (or how much worse) is that than kids seeing hundreds of television ads depicting the use of beer and hard liquor by people who barely look old enough to partake? The people in the alcohol ads aren't high-profile celebs, but I am of the firm opinion that all the alcohol advertising and our society's attitudes toward alcohol do far more harm to kids than when they learn one of their heroes took a bong hit.

The fact that he took a bong hit shouldn't diminish what he accomplished in the Olympics. He got his medals through hard work. Millions of Americans would view pot-smoking as a flaw, but those might tend to be the same people who believe they have no flaws themselves, or that humans can't/shouldn't have flaws.

I find that to be one of the beautiful things about being human. We are all flawed in some way or another. I think if we all realized that and learned to accept ourselves and others for what we are, as well as forgive, it would bring us more together.

How did our society get so unforgiving and so punitive? That's probably a topic for another rant.

Randal Graves said...

Oh sure, legalize weed and outlaw booze. Now how will politicians smack their wives around if they're so mellow?

This is one of those issues that, unless you enjoy punishing others simply for the bizarre joy it brings your sadistic mind, is one big, fat doobie of a DUH.

snave, punishment is the blanket for adults, I think. It's a comfort for many, it eases the mind knowing that someone else is getting theirs so I can remain safe, blah blah blah.

Trukindog said...

The mandatory CDL testing is a tricky spot to examine, "a positive effect" ? I'm sure it does to some degree, most CDL drivers value their CDL enough to stay clean knowing that they could be tested at any time, the positive part of this is it that it helps to keep the number of drivers that would be "on the clock" users to a minimum.

A Midnight Rider said...

We were talking about Phelps at lunch today. The statement was made about the kids and he is a role model. I really think that he is more of an icon because of the pot than the medal with most of the teens now.

As you know, MA recently decrimilalized pot. Another use that I have always been a proponent of using hemp in place of pulp for paper, because it's easily renewable.

MRMacrum said...

Snave - I will definitely check out the tune. If I have a problem I will let you know.

The Hearst conspiracy you talk of I think makes a lot of sense given the times Hearst controlled the message in this country. He owned vast timberlands and it definitely would not have worked for him if the more cost effective Hemp had been brought into our agriculture in a big way.

His campaign against drugs and his bullshit propaganda demonizing pot as being as bad as Herioin or Morphine had to have more than "the public good" in mind. Hearst was a sleazebag.

This Marijuana prohibition has definitely had a detrimental effect on our forest lands. Had we began to pulp hemp earlier, many trees would still be standing and their harvesting could be for other uses besides something to put on the bottom of the birdcage.

One acre of pulping hemp produces way more and a higher quality pulp than an acre of trees. It is also a yearly crop producing the same pulp year after year from the same acre.

And contrary to what people think about having fields of hemp growing everywhere, the type of Hemp grown for cloth, pulp, rope has a very low THC content. And the THC content can be monitored and controlled. They are now doing it profitably in many areas of Europe.

So, yeah, the conspiracy you talk of, you are talking to the converted. I think Hearst's campaign was but the first series of lies suroounding the real reasons drugs were made illegal.

Randal - A blanket huh? Good description. Something fools use at night to hide from the boogie man.

Trukindog - Back when I drove the real professional drivers generally did the same thing without testing. I know I never consciously drove while high or with alcohol still in my system. In all the years I abused almost every substance known when off the log book, I never once was pulled over or charged for DUI. My living depended on that license.

A Midnight Rider - Holding these atheletes to standards is fine if they are being paid to stay clean. Phelps screwed up. And who frickin cares? That is between him and his sponsors. His atheletic accomplishments do not make him some kind of shining example to follow in of themselves. Actually I consider his apology after the fact a better gauge of his character. It impressed me. He owned up to being a bonehead kid. I have more admiration for him now than I did before.

Maine has a very lax law regarding pot. It is not decriminalized, but it is as close as you can get I guess. Up to 1 1/2 ounces is a slap on the wrist misdemeanor and usually a $150 fine. If other issues are involved. Alcohol, theft, other drugs, assault, well the pot just adds some whipped cream to the final judgement.

Demeur said...

As far as I can tell the only reason companies have drug tests is for insurance companies to have an out should there be an accident. It also gets the conpany off the hook in paying out disability. I think you should only have to take a pee test if you have an accident at work. The people who know who's impared are co-workers. You pretty much know who's not going to be around very long because they have a real problem.

I have no objections as to what you do on the weekend but don't put my life in danger during the week. My job is dangerous enough.