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March 14, 2008 7:05 AM   Subscribe

Federal Court rules Drug-Free Workplace Laws are unconstitutional. A federal appeals court ruled Thursday a city can't require all job applicants to be tested for narcotics and must instead show why drug use in a particular job would be dangerous. Decision here (warning PDF)
posted by parmanparman (87 comments total) 11 users marked this as a favorite

 
The irony is too staggering to behold. Kids are put on ritalin and aderall (i.e. amphetamines) to make them perform better at school, but God forbid an adult smokes pot to get him through the mind-numbing tedium of his office job. Would the mandatory drug testing include alcohol? Because that would be an easy way to dispense with 95% of the lawyers in the city.
posted by Pastabagel at 7:13 AM on March 14, 2008 [2 favorites]


It's a shame this wouldn't, presumably, apply to private companies. Does anyone really think, anymore, that an IT staff, or a sales staff, or really, any office emplyee, who smokes pot on the weekend is actually a detriment to the company?
posted by uncleozzy at 7:16 AM on March 14, 2008 [7 favorites]


Holy crap? How did common-sense manage to interfere with our nation's well-thought-out and highly-successful war on drugs?

Not to worry, I'm sure this mistake will be soon rectified and we'll be back to our regularly-scheduled uselessness.
posted by Afroblanco at 7:17 AM on March 14, 2008 [9 favorites]


Interesting. However, I'd venture to guess that a case could be made for any job that drug use would be dangerous.

Still, its a hopeful sign.
posted by sotonohito at 7:17 AM on March 14, 2008


Man, I love the ninth circuit.
posted by malocchio at 7:23 AM on March 14, 2008 [15 favorites]


I don't see why it couldn't apply to private companies. We aren't living in a Randian dystopia quite yet, so they still have to submit to a few regulations.
posted by DU at 7:26 AM on March 14, 2008 [2 favorites]


However, I'd venture to guess that a case could be made for any job that drug use would be dangerous.

Wouldn't that include the legal ones? If the court says "tests should be for things that are detrimental to your job", hard to argue that you should test for illegal_drug_X but not legal_drug_Y.
posted by Leon at 7:26 AM on March 14, 2008 [1 favorite]


I don't see why it couldn't apply to private companies.

Obviously, I'm not an expert on constitutional law, but I'm not sure that a non-government entity is capable of violating your 4th Amendment rights, which is the argument here.
posted by uncleozzy at 7:30 AM on March 14, 2008


Leon Yes, but that's expecting too much rationality from the law re: drugs. Also, I'd imagine that since the legal drugs are prescribed for medical conditions you might fall afoul of nondiscrimination acts for trying to fire someone for being on them.
posted by sotonohito at 7:39 AM on March 14, 2008


This FPP is kind of hyperbolic. The 9th Circuit did not decide that all Drug Free Workplace laws are unconstitutional. It merely pointed out that this particular law is contrary to Supreme Court precedent. Read the article:
But the Ninth Circuit court said Woodburn's rationale for universal screening - that drug use is a serious social problem affecting the performance of any job - was rejected by the Supreme Court in 1997 when it struck down Georgia's requirement that all candidates for public office undergo narcotics testing to show their commitment to the war on drugs.
posted by goatdog at 7:40 AM on March 14, 2008 [1 favorite]


Alito, Scalia, Thomas, Roberts, ?
posted by machaus at 7:45 AM on March 14, 2008


Drug use can only be defined as "dangerous" if there are real dangers. There is no evidence even to show that marijuana impairs driving. Only a reefer madness case can be made that it is "dangerous" in an office setting.

I want to know how many American workers are pumped full of Ambien, Adderall, Xanax, Valium, Prozac, Effexor, Fioranal, and any other mind-altering pharmaceuticals people take like candy these days. I want to see statistics about how those drugs affect performance or safety, since they are supposed to be safe and legal if prescribed. And since they advertise them to us relentlessly day and night as benign. Not my experience.
posted by fourcheesemac at 7:48 AM on March 14, 2008 [3 favorites]


Indeed, mandatory drug testing has been in and out of SCOTUS many times. For example, it's been A-OK to randomly drug test teachers for some time now.
posted by absalom at 7:48 AM on March 14, 2008


Leon Wouldn't that include the legal ones?

They do, at least for recreational drugs: by many employers, being drunk or even just hung over is considered such a bad thing that they'll fire someone for it. In the case of smoking, it can attract almost equal dislike, although the concerns are about passive smoking and smell.

As for legal, non-recreational drugs, in most cases the user has the benefit of a prescription for it.
posted by aeschenkarnos at 7:49 AM on March 14, 2008


I don't see why it couldn't apply to private companies. We aren't living in a Randian dystopia quite yet, so they still have to submit to a few regulations.

As uncleozzy says, this decision is based on the 4th Amendment, which only applies to governmental actions. A private employer has no obligation to comply with the 4th Amendment; therefore, this decision doesn't apply.

And agreeing with goatdog -- "Drug-Free Workplace Laws are unconstitutional" is not remotely accurate. There was no "law" at issue -- it was the practice of a city to conduct testing. Moreover, the court did indicate that testing some positions would be constitutional.
posted by pardonyou? at 7:49 AM on March 14, 2008


There is no evidence even to show that marijuana impairs driving.

"No" evidence? How about anecdotal -- I've certainly felt like it's impaired my driving before.
posted by pardonyou? at 7:52 AM on March 14, 2008


Interesting. However, I'd venture to guess that a case could be made for any job that drug use would be dangerous.

Keeping in mind that drug tests don't actually test for intoxication, much less at work? I'm not sure about that. To me, the sorriest thing about drug testing (other than the shockingly high odds of false positives -- anyone who thinks that drug testing is a good idea should read that link and do the math for themselves) is that anyone who is truly behaving in a dangerous manner at work can and should be fired, regardless of the cause. You don't need somebody to piss in a cup in order to tell if they're impaired on the job, whether the cause is DayQuil, a tough hangover, or weed; the obvious conclusion is that these tests are meant to punish people for what they do when not on the job, and that's bullshit.

At any rate, this seems like a positive step, but as others have pointed out, it doesn't mean much. SCOTUS really seems to like drug testing.
posted by vorfeed at 7:53 AM on March 14, 2008 [7 favorites]


There is no evidence even to show that marijuana impairs driving.

Not to derail, but, really?
posted by inigo2 at 7:54 AM on March 14, 2008


I guess I need to stop drinking the tap water if I want to get a job.
posted by NationalKato at 7:55 AM on March 14, 2008 [8 favorites]


There is no evidence even to show that marijuana impairs driving.

One study showed improvement in driving, at least for the first hour or so.
posted by StickyCarpet at 7:56 AM on March 14, 2008


I've heard (uninformed) speculation that the reason companies perform drug tests is often not so much to suss out whether their prospective employees are drug users, but rather that they are capable of mustering the will to do what it takes to pass a drug test. It seems plausible, but the regular wisdom on the subject does too.
posted by invitapriore at 8:00 AM on March 14, 2008


PARTY TIME FOR LIBRARIANS!

*eyes jessamyn's eyes*
posted by quonsar at 8:01 AM on March 14, 2008


Chandler v. Miller (1997), the Supreme Court opinion that this particular city's testing law violated, is in little danger of being overturned by the current Court. Scalia actually joined the majority on it, and he's not likely to change his mind; I don't see his acolytes doing anything different. I doubt they'll even look at this decision.
posted by goatdog at 8:01 AM on March 14, 2008


There is no evidence even to show that marijuana impairs driving.

There certainly is evidence, even if you want to disagree about whether it is convincing. Read this article in the journal Addiction:
There is increasing evidence that cannabis users who drive while intoxicated put themselves and others at increased risk of motor vehicle crashes. Cannabis produces dose-related cognitive and behavioural impairments in laboratory and simulator studies [1–3]; cannabis users in surveys are more likely to report being involved in accidents than drivers who do not use the drug (e.g. [4,5]), and cannabis is the illicit drug detected most often in drivers who have been killed in motor vehicle crashes (see [6] for a review).
They claim that cannabis use increases the risk of motor vehicle collisions by two to three times. That is less than the increase in risk due to alcohol use, but it's nothing to sneeze at.
posted by grouse at 8:02 AM on March 14, 2008 [1 favorite]


Note: this is the Ninth Circuit, so it will be overturned.
posted by dios at 8:08 AM on March 14, 2008 [4 favorites]


I also call bullshit on the idea that pot + driving = winning move. In my experience there's little that can wipe out driving ability more. Taking mushrooms while driving makes for a safer experience.
posted by bunnytricks at 8:08 AM on March 14, 2008


There's an industry involved: the drug-testing industry. That means judges, lawmakers et al have to think of constituencies and lost jobs. Same thing goes for prisons: we'll never reform them if we can't prove we'll fix local economies left crippled by prison closing. Investment is king: who's gonna take care of the snitches when you take their ear away?

We're a nation of paid finks, without honor, without heart.
posted by breezeway at 8:15 AM on March 14, 2008 [3 favorites]


I would imagine that for a lot of bureaucratic government jobs, being stoned would improve performance and productivity. I'd actually prefer it if any civil servant I had to do business with was slightly buzzed, calm, and mellow.
posted by Meatbomb at 8:16 AM on March 14, 2008 [3 favorites]


Taking mushrooms while driving makes for a safer experience.

Huh what what? You aren't taking them right if safe driving is possible.
posted by Meatbomb at 8:18 AM on March 14, 2008


Taking mushrooms while driving makes for a safer experience.

Huh what what? You aren't taking them right if safe driving is possible.

posted by Big_B at 8:38 AM on March 14, 2008


bunnytricks: Non-psychotropic mushrooms, maybe, otherwise that's some pretty gross hyperbole. I don't believe that pot makes you a better driver, either, but just cos you call bullshit doesn't mean you get to counter with your own steaming pile.
posted by absalom at 8:45 AM on March 14, 2008


A city can't require all job applicants to be tested for narcotics and must instead show why drug use in a particular job would be dangerous, a federal appeals court ruled Thursday.

I'm really bothered by the fact that this isn't already the norm, and that we needed a ruling to get to what should be, from a privacy standpoint, level ground.

I get that there are certain jobs where focus and sobriety are essential, but the inconsistency of how this is applied makes it pointlessly invasive.

The company I work for just finally got rid of the rule where if you were temporarily stuck in one of the buildings aged elevators, you had to be drug tested because it was considered an industrial accident.

No shit. An industrial accident. Like gaffing a pole, or driving a forklift, pressing that 'floor 3' button is really something that you should never attempt while chemically altered.

*sigh*
posted by quin at 8:46 AM on March 14, 2008 [1 favorite]


America: Now only 87% police state.

And also what Dios said.
posted by uaudio at 8:47 AM on March 14, 2008


absalom: I've driven about as many miles sober as I have on opiates without incident. I've driven drunk a handful of times while only being a tiny bit clumsy. I've driven a few miles on hallucinogens and it required a great deal of mental effort but it was doable. The two times in my life I've been behind the wheel while stoned I should have been locked up for it. The first time while parking I drove into a building. The second time I ran two consecutive red lights at busy intersections without noticing it until I was a mile down the road.
posted by bunnytricks at 9:08 AM on March 14, 2008


One study showed improvement in driving, at least for the first hour or so.

I vaguely recollect that is also true for alcohol (at low doses).
posted by smackfu at 9:12 AM on March 14, 2008


It is not possible to conclude anything about a driver's impairment on the basis of his/her plasma concentrations of THC
posted by StickyCarpet at 9:16 AM on March 14, 2008


I gotta agree with the "don't bake and drive" crowd. I can't even ride a bike while high- going ten blocks feels like it takes two hours, and then I just sort of space out.

Besides, if William Burroughs recommends against a particular combination of drug and activity, it's probably a good idea to take the advice.
posted by TheWhiteSkull at 9:23 AM on March 14, 2008 [5 favorites]


Pot does not impair anywhere as much as alcohol but it does. Even NORML acknowledges this.
posted by daksya at 9:26 AM on March 14, 2008


We're a nation of paid finks, without honor, without heart.

Except the respondents there aren't even suggesting anyone get paid.
posted by TheOnlyCoolTim at 9:30 AM on March 14, 2008


I've driven about as many miles sober as I have on opiates without incident. I've driven drunk a handful of times while only being a tiny bit clumsy. I've driven a few miles on hallucinogens and it required a great deal of mental effort but it was doable. The two times in my life I've been behind the wheel while stoned I should have been locked up for it. The first time while parking I drove into a building. The second time I ran two consecutive red lights at busy intersections without noticing it until I was a mile down the road.

Congratulations, you made some bad decisions.

PS - cannabis is a hallucinogen.
posted by prostyle at 9:38 AM on March 14, 2008


cannabis is a hallucinogen? Since when?
posted by agregoli at 9:41 AM on March 14, 2008


PS - cannabis is a hallucinogen.

In the same sense that Anne Rice is an author, I suppose.
posted by bunnytricks at 9:44 AM on March 14, 2008 [2 favorites]


cannabis is a hallucinogen? Since when?
In the same sense that Anne Rice is an author, I suppose.


Apparently Google and Wikipedia are tough nuts to crack, I mean why bother when you could instead sit back and ask completely ignorant questions that are three times removed from a derail brought about in the exact same context? /golf clap
Classification:
While many drugs clearly fall into the category of either Stimulant, Depressant, Hallucinogen, or Antipsychotic, cannabis, containing both THC and CBD, exhibits a mix of all sections, leaning towards the Hallucinogen section due to THC being the primary constituent.
posted by prostyle at 9:52 AM on March 14, 2008


Sorry, I thought that personal experience would count as not being ignorant on a topic. Once again, Rude MeFi rears it's ugly head.
posted by agregoli at 9:54 AM on March 14, 2008


prostyle: mu-opiate agonists cause hallucinations in high doses. Are we going to call them hallucinogens too? How about anticholinergics? Are they hallucinogens as well?
posted by bunnytricks at 9:58 AM on March 14, 2008


Jesus bunnytricks. I hope you don't do that anymore.
posted by CitrusFreak12 at 10:01 AM on March 14, 2008


CitrusFreak12: I think the freshest of those stories is about four years old. I haven't been a danger to the national interstate system in quite a long time.
posted by bunnytricks at 10:07 AM on March 14, 2008


No shit. An industrial accident. Like gaffing a pole, or driving a forklift, pressing that 'floor 3' button is really something that you should never attempt while chemically altered.

quin, that is fucking hilarious. And sad.

I've had the good fortune to never have worked in a place that does drug testing. Of course, most of my working life has been in kitchens (where if they had to fire everyone on drugs, there would be no one to cook or serve the food), retail (stoned bookstore monkeys unite!), and non-profits (generally, budgets were so small that they could barely pay a living wage, let alone pay for lab tests). While I understand why you don't want anyone who drives anything for a living on drugs while they're driving, I've never grokked why anyone should give a shit if the bus driver smokes a spliff on his day off.
posted by rtha at 10:12 AM on March 14, 2008 [1 favorite]


Prostyle, I'm just unsure why you had to be SO snarky towards my comment or anyone else's. Metafilter seems so incredibly rude sometimes, I really can't understand why. Did my comment really warrant such bile? I honestly don't think so. It's totally unnecessary, but hey, if you want to come off nasty to other users for no good reason, well, that's your choice.

Speaking to all: We're all equal users here and there's no reason to chastise, attempt to humilate/denegrate/embarass other users for posting their thoughts. I would like to see a kinder Mefi, that's all. I don't understand the bile I see all the time but it's annoying.

The drug classification you came up with for cannibis seems so incredibly broad and largely inaccurate to boot for the majority of cannibis that people are smoking. I would imagine that most habitual users of marijuana would agree - that's why it seems absurd to classify it as a hallucinogin. Also, it's not like drug classifications always correspond with reality, given the harshness involved in the "War on Drugs."
posted by agregoli at 10:23 AM on March 14, 2008 [1 favorite]


I've never grokked why anyone should give a shit if the bus driver smokes a spliff on his day off.

me either. i guess it's all this puritanical controlling bullshit that american employers like to pull. i had to get drug tested to get the job i have and i sit at a desk all day. i'm a danger to no one. plus, you know, i'd never do drugs or drink while on the job. but i guess if i get high on the weekend one day i might give in to the temptation to toke up while making photocopies...
posted by misanthropicsarah at 10:24 AM on March 14, 2008


I also call bullshit on the idea that pot + driving = winning move. In my experience there's little that can wipe out driving ability more

I would imagine this depends on the person, like everything in life. In my experience, I was always much less in a hurry and much more worried about driving safely so I always ended up driving much safer, closer to the speed limit, signaling for the appropriate amount of time, all the sorts of things I don't do when sober. Now driving on hallucinogens, that's crazy.

And THC may be a hallucinogen but I doubt any individual can get their hands on enough of that kind of quality hash to induce such a reaction. The only people who say THC = hallucinogen are people who have never used it, or never used it more than twice.
posted by effwerd at 10:25 AM on March 14, 2008


I think I was the only person at my last two jobs who didn't do drugs, and both of them drug tested. Even though I didn't, I got hit with a more than a few of the "Random" drug screenings at the grocery store, as I looked a bit like a young Rob Zombie, except not quite as healthy and well rested as Rob, so I guess they figured me as an easy mark. I liked to think of it as taking one for the team (plus, you got to stay on the clock driving to the clinic, and it was right by the Best Buy. Score)

I still think it was and still is bullshit. Even the worst stoners still got their job done (We put stuff on shelves, it wasn't rocket science), the screwups were the ones abusing Oxycontin.
posted by Uther Bentrazor at 10:26 AM on March 14, 2008


I'd actually prefer it if any civil servant I had to do business with was slightly buzzed, calm, and mellow.
See that big pile of paper in the corner? That's where all your forms went after you left. ("Dude left all this paperwork, man. What should I do?" "Toss it on the Magic Mountain, man. It'll be cool.")

I've never grokked why anyone should give a shit if the bus driver smokes a spliff on his day off.
I think this is because no one could prove that's when he smoked it. If that driver is involved in a wreck and the tests come back positive, the plaintiffs get a free pass to rummage around in his employers' wallet. If the driver is a government employee, that wallet was filled by your tax dollars.
posted by joaquim at 10:48 AM on March 14, 2008


The only people who say THC = hallucinogen are people who have never used it, or never used it more than twice.

In this case 'hallucinogen' refers only to perceptual distortion (visual, chronological, whatever), rather than the more colloquial usage indicating 'tripping the f*ck out'.

anticholinergics are better described as deleriants, in that you can't tell that the lamppost you are talking to isn't, in fact, Mother Teresa.
posted by Sparx at 10:53 AM on March 14, 2008 [1 favorite]


'Toss it on the Magic Mountain'? Damn, I want some of what joaquim's smoking.
posted by box at 10:56 AM on March 14, 2008


This actually isn't that controversial a decision. The ruling specifically relates to *Government* drug testing. It does not apply to private drug testing. That's an important difference. If the government is going to invade your privacy and conduct a search, it must have a search warrant, issued by a judge. Drug tests are considered searches. Therefore, you can't just have drug tests willy nilly on all government employees. That's all.
posted by kingjoeshmoe at 11:03 AM on March 14, 2008


I can't bring myself to hack through the legalese - and maybe the decision doesn't directly address this anyway - but if this is about drug testing of government employees, does this have any ramifications re: drug testing of public school students?

and everyone who's arguing about whether/how MeFi is rude or not, please take it to mefimail or MeTa. Thank you.
posted by rtha at 11:14 AM on March 14, 2008


Looking at Chandler v. Miller, I kind of doubt this will be overturned. The only dissenting opinion was from Rehnquist; all the other conservative judges were on the majority.

Granted, the dynamics of the court have changed. But this doesn't seem like such an unreasonable decision, and I don't get the impression that it creates a split anywhere.
posted by sbutler at 11:24 AM on March 14, 2008


[a few comments removed - prostyle has taken a walk and will be back tomorrow. carry on.]
posted by jessamyn at 11:31 AM on March 14, 2008


While I understand why you don't want anyone who drives anything for a living on drugs while they're driving, I've never grokked why anyone should give a shit if the bus driver smokes a spliff on his day off.

It's just a whole lot easier to test people occasionally with a test that can pick up any use in the previous few weeks, than to test people every time they drive a bus.
posted by smackfu at 11:46 AM on March 14, 2008



Btw, if you have a tolerance, you can drive on doses of opioids that would kill a naive user and not be impaired at all. In fact, at least one study finds that pain patients are much more dangerous drivers when they are *not* taking opioids to relieve the pain than when they are on medication.

If you are on a regular, stable dose of opioids, most of the time, no one can tell: you are not cognitively, emotionally or physically impaired. Sometimes you might see somewhat of an effect immediately after the dose is taken, sometimes not. This is why methadone and buprenorphine maintenance are useful.
posted by Maias at 12:05 PM on March 14, 2008


If it can't be proven that illegal drugs are inherently dangerous no matter what the job, should they really be illegal?
posted by furiousxgeorge at 12:07 PM on March 14, 2008


bunnytricks: While that may be true in your case, n=1 is not a data set, it's an anecdote. All snark aside, I still don't think that the suggestion that driving on pot is more dangerous than on mushrooms is really a tenable position. That's the only point I'm trying to make.

PS: Please let me know next time you go tearing around on mid and high grade chemicals so I know to stay home. :)
posted by absalom at 12:20 PM on March 14, 2008


There's liability issues, too, thanks to drug testing becoming commonplace.

When that bus driver has an accident, he's likely to get a urinalysis. If that UA comes back positive for pot, lawsuits are going to focus on the pot.

Since bus drivers don't have a lot of money, lawsuits are going to be aimed at the organization that employs the bus driver. There's going to be a lot of questions asked of a representative of the organization like: "Were you aware that bus driver smoked marijuana?"; "Are you aware that most businesses test drivers for marijuana use on hire and randomly thereafter?"; "If you don't perform drug testing, how can you be sure that your drivers are not intoxicated?"

There'll be an expert who says things like, "Even NORML, a marijuana advocacy organization, admits that marijuana impairs driving ability," and "If his UA came back positive for THC, then there was THC in his body, potentially affecting his judgment. THC has one of the longest actions of any illegal drug."

Bus drivers aren't a special case. Any organization that can get sued is vulnerable to the same. That means any organization. "Are you aware that the telemarketer you hired admitted to smoking marijuana, a drug frequently implicated in psychotic episodes?"
posted by nathan v at 12:28 PM on March 14, 2008


I'll agree that driving while stoned is incredibly dangerous. The sheer number of times I've almost been run down by a pothead going 3 miles an hour... the horror!

Really, stands to reason that anything that affects your motor coordination and response time is going to be a bad thing when you're driving. Being excessively tired is as dangerous as being drunk behind the wheel. Even my stupid joke above is actually a bad thing; speed differential kills. If you're baked and driving way too slow on the highway, you're at risk of being clocked by other drivers. Some semi cruising at 75 mph isn't going to be able to avoid hitting a stoned driver going way too slow just over the crest of the next hill. Accident report will check both drivers, find pot in one, and blame the stoner (rightly) for the incident*.

*Unless the semi driver tests positive for amphetamines, in which case the anti-drug crowd has two sets of stats to add to the books.
posted by caution live frogs at 12:46 PM on March 14, 2008


"If you don't perform drug testing, how can you be sure that your drivers are not intoxicated?"

What I've never understood is why doesn't this work as a counter-argument: "Since marijuana can last in the body for weeks, how can you prove the driver was intoxicated during the incident?"
posted by effwerd at 12:55 PM on March 14, 2008


Great, I can go back to eating poppy seed bagels.

“There is no evidence even to show that marijuana impairs driving.”

Y’know what impairs driving? Cell phones, masterbation (no, seriously, some folks do it while they’re driving), reading, putting on makeup, playing the music too loud, lack of sleep, etc.

There should be more focus on the end result, guy crashes and kills a bunch of people, doesn’t much matter whether he was stoned or likes to play with himself while driving the bus.

But driving and such, probably on the “it’s ok to test them” side of the equation. Some dude pushing papers in the basement, doesn’t much matter if he’s stoned or jerks off all day as long as the work gets done.
posted by Smedleyman at 1:08 PM on March 14, 2008



If what you are worried about is job performance, performance testing is the way to go: if the guy can't pass the performance test (a videogame for alertness, for example) to demonstrate he's currently able to do the job, he doesn't fly, drive, whatever.

Of course, this would never be done because it's not about performance, it's about control. and if you tested your guy and he couldn't fly/drive/whatever because he was tired, you'd lose money because frequently, your overworked workers *wouldn't* pass and you now would have legal liability if you made them work.
posted by Maias at 1:55 PM on March 14, 2008 [3 favorites]


My concern is that a number of prescription drugs can cause false positives for illegal drugs. So if you're on a prescription and obtain a positive test for whatever, you might have to provide evidence of what meds you're on. What right does your employer have to know that? That's a far worse invasion of privacy than having to fill a cup with your pee. Further, while most companies basically wait to test you until they know they'll hire you as long as you pass, and would be foolish to decline to hire you because of a false positive caused by your meds, that definitely doesn't stop them from waiting a couple weeks or months and laying you off, so as to save on group insurance rates.
posted by gauchodaspampas at 2:10 PM on March 14, 2008


So...wait, it's just about money?

....I'm so disillusioned.
posted by Smedleyman at 2:49 PM on March 14, 2008


There should be more focus on the end result, guy crashes and kills a bunch of people, doesn’t much matter whether he was stoned or likes to play with himself while driving the bus.

Yes but... sometimes people fuck up. You are driving, you looked left and didn't see anyone because it was dusk out so you turned and whoops, there was a pedestrian crossing the street, who is now dead. At this point noone can really tell why you didn't see the pedestrian, but they can tell if you were driving in a way that made the chance of not seeing the pedestrian a hell of a lot more likely. For instance, were you drunk? Were you driving 35 miles over the speed limit. Were you texting your best friend while driving drunk and 35 miles over the speed limit. Were you driving in circles for hours waiting for that person to leave his apartment so you could run him down because he stole your dog? Our legal system is built around the idea that why you caused an accident is a significant part of the penalty. I don't think that's unreasonable. Otherwise you have to treat the reckless endagerment of others the same way as garden variety fuckups.
posted by aspo at 2:58 PM on March 14, 2008


"No" evidence? How about anecdotal -- I've certainly felt like it's impaired my driving before.

"One thing about weed. A man under the influence of weed is completely unfit to drive a car. Weed disturbs your sense of time and consequently your sense of spatial relations. Once, in New Orleans, I had to pull over to the side of a road and wait until the weed wore off. I could not tell how far away anything was or when to turn or put on the brakes for an intersection."

-William S. Burroughs, Junky

Bill Burroughs knows more about teh drugz than j00. That being said, I've driven high on pot a million times and never had a problem, but it was still irresponsible. I also drove quite a few times on acid or mushrooms. I always tried to be somewhere where I wouldn't have to, but if I did, it wasn't that hard. Just concentrate really hard on the lines and staying between them, go slow and keep right, and you'll be OK. Then again, there was the time I almost got pulled over going about 100 on an empty road, tripping balls and listening to Rancid. I'm not exactly a role model.

I've never worked anywhere where I had to take a drug test, even though now I'd probably pass on a given day. Now that I employ people myself, I would never require them to submit to the embarrasment of a drug test, and even if I was forced to I'd lie and employ subterfuge to just discard the results. When I was a coder, I showed up high every day and took bong hits over lunch, and it actually improved my performance by allowing me to concentrate totally on a problem. I had most of my best ideas in the car driving back from an herbal lunch.

Products like the Whizzinator (a small heated baggie containing a chemical concoction that passes for urine, crotched with a tube extending from it. Works unless you have a probation officer or something that stares directly at your cackenballs) can allow someone who smoked a 20 rock on the way to the testing lab to pass anyway. Piss testing by employers is just another wasteful, ineffective, moronic aspect of the glorious War On Drugs. It's completely hypocritical to allow employees to be completely fucked out of their heads on government approved happy pills while denying employment to a guy who smoked a joint a month before the test.
posted by DecemberBoy at 3:05 PM on March 14, 2008


I smell a Supreme Court appeal.

Wait, even better, it's a decision by the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals. Roberts et al. will be chuckling in merriment at the prospect of striking this one down. If Jeffrey Toobin's The Nine is any indication, they're just itching to find any opportunity to show that stare decisis is nothing other than a minor irritant.
posted by blucevalo at 3:25 PM on March 14, 2008


"...and cannabis is the illicit drug detected most often in drivers who have been killed in motor vehicle crashes..."

Admit I haven't read the whole article, but this leap of logic needs to be pummeled into the ground, buried, and then spit on. Cannabis is the illicit drug most used, so noting that it is most often detected in drivers of any stripe, dead, alive, halfway in between, is no information at all about its effects on driving.
posted by Mental Wimp at 3:33 PM on March 14, 2008


joaquim writes "I think this is because no one could prove that's when he smoked it. If that driver is involved in a wreck and the tests come back positive, the plaintiffs get a free pass to rummage around in his employers' wallet. If the driver is a government employee, that wallet was filled by your tax dollars."

That's piling stupidity on top of a bad situation. There actually are saliva tests that can tell reasonably well if someone has smoked marijuana recently. The fact that we're sue-happy is not a reasonable basis for law.
posted by krinklyfig at 4:50 PM on March 14, 2008


joaquim writes "See that big pile of paper in the corner? That's where all your forms went after you left. ('Dude left all this paperwork, man. What should I do?' 'Toss it on the Magic Mountain, man. It'll be cool.')"

Must be inexperienced smokers. If you can't handle it, don't do it at work. If you can't and you do anyway, well, you'll probably get noticed for it and fired. But, depending on the job and the person, it can actually help someone's productivity.
posted by krinklyfig at 4:56 PM on March 14, 2008


I almost fell off my chair when I first read this post. But then...oh, 9th circuit. Sure to be overturned. Oh, well, back to our regularly scheduled drug war.
posted by telstar at 5:11 PM on March 14, 2008


joaquim writes "See that big pile of paper in the corner? That's where all your forms went after you left. ('Dude left all this paperwork, man. What should I do?' 'Toss it on the Magic Mountain, man. It'll be cool.')"

Me: Hey, man, I'm here for my planning permission.
CS: Yo, hey dude, I remember you! You're that guy building that... that extra thing on your house.
Me: Yeah, so is it cool with you guys?
CS: *looks at the magic mountain* Go for it, man. If the inspector comes, just tell him Scooter down at the planning office said everything is good.
posted by Meatbomb at 7:20 PM on March 14, 2008 [4 favorites]


RTFA people:

But the Ninth Circuit court said Woodburn's rationale for universal screening - that drug use is a serious social problem affecting the performance of any job - was rejected by the Supreme Court in 1997 when it struck down Georgia's requirement that all candidates for public office undergo narcotics testing to show their commitment to the war on drugs.

The Supreme Court seems unlikely to strike down a ruling based on its own RECENT prior ruling.

Also, "the court found no basis to test applicants for library positions."

Sweet!
posted by librarylis at 7:27 PM on March 14, 2008 [1 favorite]


If you are on a regular, stable dose of opioids, most of the time, no one can tell

Yeah, but that first hour or two after it kicks in can be a bitch.
posted by PeterMcDermott at 7:33 PM on March 14, 2008


It depends on the driver, her/his tolerance, etc. But back in my road musician days, my bandmates and I clocked tens or even hundreds of thousands of miles with the spliff and never once had a wreck. Not once. I'm talking late nights, long hours, highway speeds, big trucks, tired guys.

And I cannot tell you how many musician friends I've lost to drunk driving. Not even close to comparable to pot, which has cost me exactly no friends to driving accidents or anything else.

There's your anecdotal evidence, which is just as good as anyone else's anecdote, and better than most of the random speculation here. Not that I do it any more, mind you, now that I'm a middle-aged guy with responsibilities.

I don't believe for even a second that marijuana "doubles" or "triples" your risk of anything except getting fat from all the doritos.
posted by fourcheesemac at 11:47 PM on March 14, 2008


Unless you try to roll a joint while driving at highway speeds . . . in a stick shift car.
posted by fourcheesemac at 11:48 PM on March 14, 2008


It depends on the driver, her/his tolerance, etc. But back in my road musician days, my bandmates and I clocked tens or even hundreds of thousands of miles with the spliff and never once had a wreck. Not once. I'm talking late nights, long hours, highway speeds, big trucks, tired guys.

So what? So have I. But I attribute this more to good fortune than evidence of reefer's benign effect on my driving skills.

Pot impairs you ability to drive a car, operate machinery, and remember where you laid your keys down. If it did not effect cognitive skills, what would be the point of smoking it?

As for the bus driver who gets high on the weekends - get real people. The guy who gets high "on the weekends" also often gets high during the week. And if money and suply permit, every day.

If you avoid those who "get high on the weekend," you are more or less guaranteed to avoid those who would get high during the week.
posted by three blind mice at 12:59 AM on March 15, 2008


I'd say the consensus of scientific literature is that the are measurable (though not always significant) effects of THC -- ALONE -- on driving only when it is in very high concentration in the bloodstream. More subtle effects when blood levels have gone down are more controversial, and are partially offset by intriguing studies that show (hint, perhaps) that THC might make some people drive *better* and more cautiously. Epidemiological studies tend to display a confirmation bias, finding any concentration of THC in relation to an accident "causal," even if other drugs, including alcohol, were involved, and even though millions of people smoke marijuana daily or weekly in the US and thus any random sampling of Americans, including those in car accidents, will show some rate of consumption.

Obviously, THC "impairs" function to some extent on psychomotor skills and reaction time (though marijunana-influenced drivers may well overcompensate for this impairment by slowing down and increasing following distances, not true at all of alcohol or stimulant intoxication). Obviously, at the margins of risk, I don't want school bus drivers or pilots toking up behind the wheel (but I don't see why weekend use is a problem from the data).

The science is not settled on any of this, and it tends to be funded by governments that are biased against marijuana vs. alcohol or other legal pharmaceutical drugs (those industries have rich and effective lobbies).

Bear in mind that the biggest factor in traffic safety is simply the speed at which people drive. The single biggest factor, period.

Here is an interesting summary of some of the findings.


From:

Cannabis and Driving: A Scientific and Rational Review
By Paul Armentano
Full article available at: http://norml.org/index.cfm?Group_ID=7459

Cruising On Cannabis: Clarifying The Debate

While it is well established that alcohol consumption increases accident risk, evidence of marijuana’s culpability in on-road driving accidents and injury is far less clear. Although acute cannabis intoxication following smoking has been shown to mildly impair psychomotor skills, this impairment is seldom severe or long lasting.15 In closed course and driving simulator studies, marijuana’s acute effects on psychomotor performance include minor impairments in tracking (eye movement control) and reaction time, as well as variation in lateral positioning, headway (drivers under the influence of cannabis tend to follow less closely to the vehicle in front of them), and speed (drivers tend to decrease speed following cannabis inhalation).16 In general, these variations in driving behavior are noticeably less consistent or pronounced than the impairments exhibited by subjects under the influence of alcohol.17 Also, unlike subjects impaired by alcohol, individuals under the influence of cannabis tend to be aware of their impairment and try to compensate for it accordingly, either by driving more cautiously18 or by expressing an unwillingness to drive altogether.19

As a result, cannabis-induced variations in performance do not appear to play a significant role in on-road traffic accidents when THC levels in a driver's blood are low and/or cannabis is not consumed in combination with alcohol.20-21 For example, a 1992 National Highway Traffic Safety Administration review of the role of drug use in fatal accidents reported, “There was no indication that cannabis itself was a cause of fatal crashes” among drivers who tested positive for the presence of the drug.22 A more recent assessment by Blows and colleagues noted that self-reported recent use of cannabis (within three hours of driving) was not significantly associated with car crash injury after investigators controlled for specific cofounders (e.g., seat-belt use, sleepiness, etc.)23 A 2004 observational case control study published in the journal Accident, Analysis and Prevention reported that only drivers under the influence of alcohol or benzodiazepines experience an increased crash risk compared to drug-free controls. Investigators did observe increased risks – though they were not statistically significant – among drivers using amphetamines, cocaine and opiates, but found, “No increased risk for road trauma was found for drivers exposed to cannabis.”24

A handful of more recent studies have noted a positive association between very recent cannabis exposure and a gradually increased risk of vehicle accident. Typically, these studies reveal that drivers who possess THC/blood concentrations above 5ng/ml – implying cannabis inhalation within the past 1-3 hours25-26 – experience an elevated risk of accident compared to drug-free controls.27-28 (Motorists who test positive for the presence of THC in the blood at concentrations below this threshold typically do not have an increased risk compared to controls.29) However, this elevated risk is below the risk presented by drivers who have consumed even small quantities of alcohol.

Two recent case-controlled studies have assessed this risk in detail. A 2007 case-control study published in the Canadian Journal of Public Health reviewed 10-years of US auto-fatality data. Investigators found that US drivers with blood alcohol levels of 0.05% – a level well below the legal limit for intoxication – were three times as likely to have engaged in unsafe driving activities prior to a fatal crash as compared to individuals who tested positive for marijuana.30 A 2005 review of auto accident fatality data from France showed similar results, finding that drivers who tested positive for any amount of alcohol had a four times greater risk of having a fatal accident than did drivers who tested positive for marijuana in their blood.31 In the latter study, even drivers with low levels of alcohol present in their blood (below 0.05%) experienced a greater elevated risk as compared to drivers who tested positive for high concentrations of cannabis (above 5ng/ml). Both studies noted that overall few traffic accidents appeared to be attributed to driver’s operating a vehicle while impaired by cannabis.

posted by fourcheesemac at 9:43 AM on March 15, 2008


In other words, when you have banned all alcohol consumption by anyone who ever drives, then get back to me about pot.
posted by fourcheesemac at 9:44 AM on March 15, 2008 [1 favorite]


Also, get back to me when speeding laws are actually rigorously enforced, which would make a bigger difference at the margin than any intervention involving mind altering substances, for far more people.
posted by fourcheesemac at 10:05 AM on March 15, 2008


Pot impairs you ability to drive a car, operate machinery, and remember where you laid your keys down. If it did not effect cognitive skills, what would be the point of smoking it?

Because, my dear, it ENHANCES cognitive skills for some of us. The proper verb is "affect," not "effect," in any case. And I am claiming a positive "effect" as the way pot "affects" my brain, and -- based on the science -- many other brains. It makes me concentrate better, slow down, feel less aggressive, etc. All good for driving.]

I gave an anecdotal data point for a reason -- because others here are doing the same on both sides. My anecdote, however, has some extra validity. I have driven (I estimate) about half a million miles as a road musician in my life (not all of it with me behind the wheel, but a good amount of it). No accidents, ever, and the spliff was often passed around in the van/truck/whatever over those late night, tired miles.

On the other hand, musician friends who drink a lot and drive a lot - I've lost three so far, directly to drunk driving accidents.

My anecdote is not statistically significant, but it's more so than most. And it corresponds with the science, which shows pot has a negligible effect on overall accident rates and fatalities from accidents compared to many legal substances we allow people to consume when they are not driving, and even -- in the case of many pharmaceuticals and alcohol -- when they ARE driving.

You think someone with a "legal" .05 blood alcohol level is OK driving? But someone who smoked a joint last night can't get behind the wheel?

Yeah, right.
posted by fourcheesemac at 12:14 AM on March 17, 2008


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