6 Ways the U.S. Drug War Intrudes On Your Life, Whether Or Not You Use Illegal Substances
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Many Americans who do not use illegal "drugs" assume exemption from drug war policies. But regardless of how much marijuana you do or don't smoke, the U.S. war on drugs affects nearly everyone. While some prohibition tactics are more obvious than others, the drug war has slyly pushed its way into many corners of American life. Be it at the post office, in the workspace, or behind the counter at Walgreens, the war on drugs has established a nagging presence in the everyday lives of Americans, even those who do not get high illegally. We can no longer come down with a cold, for example, without the medication we take to treat it being tracked and monitored by the government. A national database collects information on every person who buys cold medication containing pseudoephedrine and ephedrine.
Whether or not you are aware that the drug war is behind these creeping invasions, our drug policy has unequivocally curtailed basic civil rights and eviscerated the Fourth Amendment. And not coincidentally, many of the civil liberties erosions from the war on terror have their origin in the war on drugs. Here are six insidious and not so insidious ways the drug war invades and violates your right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.
1) The drug-testing dragnet ensnares millions of unsuspecting Americans each year.
Have you ever been drug-tested to get a job? Chances are, you have. Now, over 80 percent of employers drug-test their workers and workers to be. And, if illicit drugs show up in the urine, they don’t get the job. Or maybe the potential employee takes the opportunity to explain to his prospective employer why he's prescribed legal opiates like oxycodone and methadone or legal amphetamines like Adderall or medical marijuana. Now, the pre-employment pee test gives management unchecked power to discriminate against millions of workers based on their private health decisions. So long as employees are doing their jobs without issue, it’s none of an employer’s business which medications they’re taking and why.
Marijuana users are among the most vulnerable to failing drug tests because THC can be detected in the urine for up to a month. Alcohol and tobacco—two far more dangerous drugs than marijuana—are not subject to screening. And random, suspicionless drug testing is allowed in many workplaces. If you come up positive, it can be automatic grounds for discipline or termination, thanks to the Drug Free Workplace Act.
Plus, peeing in a cup is degrading. Some employees are forced to strip naked and are monitored while they urinate to ensure that they can’t switch and use another person's “clean” urine. To add insult to injury, drug test results aren’t reliable, and commonly used test kits have false positives that range from 10 to 30 percent. In the meantime, you’re out of a job.
Drug testing has also invaded high schools. The Supreme Court upheld the right of public high schools to randomly drug-test students. Those who test positive for drugs are not allowed to participate in extracurricular activities and are kicked off their sports teams.
The unemployed have become new targets for drug testing. Laws in about 20 states already deny the unemployed benefits if they were fired for using drugs. As if that weren’t discriminatory enough, there is a movement among conservatives to pass legislation to drug-test people claiming unemployment benefits. A “chemical McCarthyism” has been unleashed on those receiving welfare, job training assistance, food stamps and public housing.
2) Carded at Walgreens.
Pharmacies used to sell cold and allergy medicines that contained pseudoephedrine over the counter. You could just grab that Sudafed or Theraflu and go. But that changed as a result of the passage of the Combat Methamphetamine Epidemic Act of 2005, which was incorporated into the Patriot Act. The Drug Enforcement Administration whipped up a panic around the use of methamphetamines. Since then, any preparation that contains pseudoephedrine, the main chemical used to make meth, is kept behind the counter. It’s sold in limited quantities and in order to purchase it the buyer must be 18 years old and show a photo ID.