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Issue #59 (October 1986)
Drug abuse has by popular account became one of the greatest problems facing our nation today. We are repeatedly provided with accounts in the media of the deaths of sports and entertainment figures and told of the dire effect these mind-altering substances will have on the youth of America, nay the future of our nation, if we do not stem and reverse the tide now. By and large, I have no qualm with that assessment; the statistics I see (I always trust statistics) are frightening: 10% of [quoteright]physicians are regular users, 75% of high school students have tried pot, Miami wallows in a sea of white powder in spite of the good efforts of Officers Crocket and Tubbs... the list goes on.
President and Mrs Reagan have undertaken their own courses of action in public awareness and prevention programs to combat drug abuse. Mrs Reagan has appeared on a program "The Chemical People" and speaks to groups across the country of her concern in this matter. She hosted a First Ladies Summit where all the girls could get together and be photographed with the frowns of drug-worry across their faces. The President and Mrs Reagan recently appeared together in a joint address where they announced an essential war against getting high, enlisting the support of all our citizens to reject this great threat.
Mr Reagan recently unveiled a plan whereby a great number of federal employees would become subject to random urinalysis screening to spot- check and identify abusers in the workplace. Piss-tests are nothing new; while on active duty with the Marines in the seventies, 1 took a few as did most all service members; I passed them all with no problems. Many employers in the private sector now require screenings as a part of pre-employment or annual and promotion physicals. Piss-tests are becoming the newest hot corporate sensation. Of course, there are the problems...
Civil rights groups complain that mandatory urinalysis screenings are an infringement on an individuals right of freedom from government inquiry and search without probable cause. They aver that our right to refuse to incriminate ourselves would be abridged, that it is an invasion of privacy and that unless our conduct is such that we present a risk to ourselves or others, the tests would be unjustified because what we do on our time is our own business. I can see their point.
The government and corporate leaders counter with claims that drug abuse has a deleterious effect on production, job safety and the effective administration of business or agency goals. Drug abuse at home carries over to the work place, and if rehabilitation programs are implemented as opposed to criminal prosecution, the incrimination defense loses weight. They claim the right to protect their interests through the identification and elimination of substance abusers in the workplace. In government offices that are particularly sensitive to safety concerns, such as police agencies, the FAA and air traffic control system, and hopefully Congress, the need to be free of the spectre of drugs overrides the individual rights concerned. I can see with their point too.
As is the nature of resolution in controversial public topics, a compromise is needed. I believe I've arrived at one that is fair to both sides, addresses the concerns of both and will help eliminate drug abuse in our country. I call it "Palko's Payable Piss-Test Proposal," hereinafter PPPTP.
With PPPTP, the government will establish a urinalysis agency; I wouldn't presume to try and name it. Satellite facilities will handle regional workloads for districts that would be established. Tests would of course be standardized and testees would submit samples after having been selected randomly through the use of a computer-generated listing. Tests would be mandatory, refusals would be ample cause for dismissal from employment. Private testing facilities would also be encouraged to flourish as an accuracy check and balance against the government systems and to handle private sector testing as needed.
Upon selection and submission of the required sample, government or private employees would be immediately given a check or cash in the amount of, say, fifty dollars. This is to compensate them for having to sacrifice their aforementioned constitutional rights to privacy and freedom from search. The sample would be checked; if negative, life goes on and your name goes back in the hat for possible later testing. If it comes back positive, and is verified in a second test that is more rigorous and reliable than the initial screening, mandatory rehabilitation is imposed upon the individual. You'd also have to give back the fifty bucks through a payroll deduction. Under PPPTP, criminal prosecution would be indicated only in cases of arrest outside the arena of testing such as with street busts, raids, etc. Thus the argument of self-incrimination is negated.
The fifty bucks is yours to do as you wish, but I would suggest that the individual avail him or herself of the private test facilities to have a second parallel set of tests done. This way, if you haven't been using drugs but through a snafu in the government test come up positive, you'd have another test to back up your contention of innocence. This would be my first course of action if I were to be selected for testing today because I've heard of how lax security is in the program we have where I work now. (I work on a military base.) Friends tell me that samples currently drawn are often left sitting unguarded for hours before processing and anyone could rearrange the name slips sitting on top of the samples or play mix the batches. Call me paranoid, but I'm no fool. The second test would cost me money but in anything the government touches, Murphy's law can prevail.
A testing program would be in place, the loss of individual rights compensated and government and business interests protected. The program would be expensive, but the cost factor would provide a deterrent so that the testing wouldn't get out of hand and interfere too much in our lives. A new bureaucracy could grow and swell, employing people in tandem with a complete private enterprise that would provide a safeguard available if the individual wanted it. Rehabilitation programs would, of course, be established to help those in need of it. Drug use would hopefully be checked and slowly die off.
PPPTP, an idea that works. Write your congressman today.