Urine Trouble Down in Carolina

For almost a decade my stores sold an assortment of cleansing teas, detoxification drinks and urine additives. Customers sought to clean out their systems for four to six hours and I did not ask them why. They could buy similar products from some health food stores, pharmacies and even convenience stores. The products had names as vague as Detoxify, Black Magic and Ready-Clean. My guess is that the ingredients include some creatine and a lot of powdered fruit pectin. Everyone says that they taste awful.

A new law was passed in North Carolina, effective Dec. 1, 2002 making it a first offense misdemeanor and a second offense felony to sell these products. No one informed me of this until Clear Choice, a brand I haven't carried in years, sent me a copy of the law and stated that they would no longer ship product to North Carolina.

The official words state that "It is unlawful ... to adulterate a urine or other bodily fluid sample with the intent to defraud a drug or alcohol screening test ... to possess adulterants that are intended to be used to adulterate a sample ... sell adulterants with the intent that they be used to adulterate a sample."

Needless to say, my inventory was swept into a box and put in the storage room.

Although I never stated such a purpose for these products, I admit that all of us business folks have the sneaking suspicion that they might be used to foul up drug testing. However, it has been a decade of don't ask, don't tell for me. I consider all drug screens for school and work to be a violation of one's civil rights, and feel that the public has a constitutional right to interfere with any search without reasonable cause. Anyway, studies suggest that random and pre-job drug testing policies are associated with lower levels of productivity, not higher (Working USA '98).

My business will survive without selling detox products. However, I worry about the many customers who came in, some monthly, in order to purchase these products. Some will resort to internet sales although many express reluctance to have such items shipped through the mail to their home addresses. Most will likely head to their nearest border town in neighboring South Carolina, Tennessee and Virginia.

I worry about the shrinking rights of Americans to do basically whatever the hell they want, as long as no one is hurt in the process. Nothing written on the labels of detox products stated any illicit purpose. Even the product touted by Tommy Chong's stony smile, Urine Luck, had its alternative stated use: Add to your aquarium to commit euthanasia in the case of sick and dying fish.

Hey, why not? Doesn't a legal use usually create a legal intent for the item? However, few of us can risk a felony conviction in order to stubbornly cling to our freedom to sell fruit pectin, assorted additives and little vials of yellow-dyed fluid.

I know that I live in the Bible Belt and should understand that community standards are a wee bit more conservative than in, say, Northern California. Still, we have the same Constitution down here as everywhere else in America. But until most drug testing is declared unconstitutional by the Supreme Court, we'll have to expect continued restrictions on related products and issues.

Debra McCorkle is a shopowner living in the mountains of North Carolina.


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