Drug Testing is a gross invasion of personal liberty

By Chris Bovey

I have a business selling cannabis seeds, and often joke that I drug test any potential employees and if they fail a test for THC they won’t get the job.

Drug testing at work, a gross violation of personal freedoms.Of course I’m joking; as it happens, the two guys that run my business don’t smoke pot – one recently stopped and the other is not a stoner.

As absurd as it would be to drug test employees for a head shop to make sure they are cannabis users and tested positive for THC; it is in my mind equally absurd and unjust for the majority of jobs to drug test employees or potential employees to make sure they don’t have THC in their system.

Sure, it’s entirely reasonable to expect that a train driver or an airline pilot is not stoned while in charge of a vehicle with hundreds of passengers on board; you equally wouldn’t want a drunk person driving your train or piloting your plane. It’s even reasonable to expect a teacher not to be stoned while your children are in their care during working hours at schools, just as you wouldn’t want a drunk in charge of a classroom.

These are perfectly reasonable boundaries and conditions of employment. However, a pilot or a teacher may get drunk out of their minds on alcohol, yet as long as the effects had worn off they can legally do their job. This is how it should be, if an airline pilot gets pissed at his brother’s stag do and goes back to work a couple of days later when the alcohol has worn off then he or she would be fine to pilot the aeroplane and wouldn’t lose his or her job. Fair enough in my opinion and rightly so, yet if they were to have smoked a few joints and they subsequently tested positive for THC they would not only lose their jobs, but also be barred from working in that profession again. Even though the effects of the cannabis would have long since worn off.

Drug testing is a gross invasion of privacy and human rights, what one does in their own private life should as a rule be of no concern to employers. Only if the consumption of substances, including alcohol, affects your ability to do a paid job, should it be of any concern to an employer.

Teacher Alan Taylor who was sacked and banned from teaching for growing a few cannabis plants.

Alan Taylor banned from teaching for his cannabis use.

A couple of weeks ago Education Secretary, Michael Gove, banned a Wigan teacher from the country’s classrooms for at least five years after he was caught growing cannabis at his home.

Teacher, Alan Taylor, has had his career and livelihood ruined, because he likes a toke and grew a few cannabis plants. It really is no different to a teacher who likes the odd pint or two and makes his own homebrew beer.

Can you imagine if a perfectly good teacher was sacked and banned from working in schools because they discovered a beer or cider making kit in his spare room? There would quite rightly be outrage. Yet Michael Gove, our taxpayer funded Education Secretary, is more than happy to ruin the career of a perfectly good teacher on account of a few cannabis plants grown for personal use, even though it is scientifically proven that cannabis is one of the safer recreational substances and is certainly far safer than alcohol.

There are many more injustices concerning cannabis, too many to mention in fact. Only recently we reported on the cannabis conviction of a former Special Constable and MS patient who was cruelly told by magistrates she would face a much harsher punishment if she was caught with cannabis again; one dreads to think what harsher punishment they have in mind, that could possibly be worse than denying an MS patient a medicine that alleviates pain and suffering.

Alan Taylor didn’t lose his job because he was drug tested, but the increasingly worrying trend in compulsory drug testing in this country means many more people could find their careers ruined because of certain lifestyle choices they make. This is an ugly trend that has its roots in the USA, where there is even a booming industry in companies that help you pass a drug test, with companies like Test Clear offering urine cleansing detox drinks that will make them think the pee came from Snow White (or Peter Hitchens), hair shampoos that hide traces of drugs and even fake piss in the form of powdered urine kits.

Drug testing is yet another oppressive consequence of the war on some people who use some drugs. We need to stand up and be counted and say no!

Pass a drug test with Testclear

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  1. completely stupid. of course there’s a difference with cannabis and alcohol and the way they’re treated. thats mainly because cannabis is ILLEGAL. it doesnt matter whether you think it should or shouldnt be but the fact is that you cant go claiming ‘oh its unfair he’s lost his job’ when cannabis IS illegal. completely biased and stupid.

    • Used to be a lot of things were illegal, entirely unjustly, which are now legal. Think you’ll find that whether he thinks it should be legal or not is highly relevant, otherwise why bother ever talking about the law or passing new legislation on anything?

    • Cannabis a plant cannot really be legal or illegal, it doesn’t do much apart from sitting around growing, it doesn’t really care if you label it as legal or illegal. The law controls our actions as a person and it is morally repugnant that a decent teacher like should lose his job for using a plant that has so many benefits.

    • ^^^ Ollie – Homosexuality was illegal until 1967. Would you have argued that it was perfectly reasonable to sack a good teacher in 1966 just for being gay, when they kept their sexuality to themselves and in private?
      Of course if said teacher was taking morphine, a far more dangerous and addicitive drug under doctor’s prescription for pain control thaen sacking him for doing so would have been an offence under disability discrimination legislation.
      Pointing out that cannabis IS illegal is a redundant statement. The whole PURPOSE of NORML is to argue that the fact of its illegality is illlogical, unfair, discriminatory and unhelpful.

  2. On the subject of drug testing – I’m a medical professional, and am trained to conduct drug urine tests. I was, some time ago, offered a job with a major US based financial institution at their offices in the City of London as an ‘in house drug counsellor for staff’. Since the pay was nearly twice what I was receiving in the NHS, I made further inquiries – only to find out that there was NO counselling involved whatsoever for employees with drug problems. A very large proportion of the traders and brokers that the company employed used cocaine and other drugs. The company had a ‘random’ drug testing policy – but, on speaking to the staff informally, I discovered that there was nothing random about it at all – if you hit your sales targets you were never tested. If you consistently failed to hit targets you would be tested, and, for most staff, that would mean a fail, a breach of their employment contract, and the firm having the opportunity to sack them immediately for ‘gross misconduct’ without having to pay any compensation or risk of facing employment tribunal. They wished to employ me to simply give them a cheap excuse to sack staff they felt werent up to scratch, without needing to further justify such decisions.
    Needless to say, on those terms I refused the job on principle, however good the pay was… but it clearly demonstrates how employee drug testing is wide open to abuse by unscrupulous employers….

  3. Currently completing an assignment for Business Ethics with the Open Polytechnic in New Zealand, so apologise for the length. I have made the assumption United Kingdom and New Zealand have similar opinions and views.
    Your article mentioned, it is reasonable to expect that a train driver and such like is not driving drunk. However, do we really know the effects of being stoned? I realise many people say it is a, relaxant that some people work better, are more creative. However do we really want someone relaxed or creative when driving?
    Whilst browsing through websites on drug testing I noticed some interesting thoughts and perspectives within New Zealand.
    For example we had a hot air balloon crash in New Zealand killing 11 people, shortly before the pilot hoped on to the place he was seen smoking cannabis on a decking area away from the customers. Obviously this has brought, drugs in particular cannabis, into the limelight. Another article explained, sky jumping instructors, killed in a plane crash with seven others, were found to have been smoking cannabis.
    Having recently completed a paper on Human Resouces, I wondered what is right or wrong. This lead me to the Health & Safety Act 1992 New Zealand.
    This act covers Accidents and Hazards in the workplace. “A Hazard is an activity, circumstance, and event, occurrence in or out of the workplace that causes actual harm or has the potential to.” According to Desjardins and Duska, the potential for harm should be clear and present, as a danger to others. There should be employer discretion for administering the tests and be justified, as to prevent harm to others.
    However I found a case, where one employee had been asked to perform a random drug test and instead took the employer to task, the result the employee won. Employers need to be aware and ensure their processes are fair and reasonable and do not conflict with existing employment contracts.
    In your blog you mention reasonable boundaries and conditions of employment. You mention alcohol; however you do not mention the Employers responsibility to his employees, his customers. According to the Health and Safety Act 1992 the Employer must ensure safety of employees and others while at work, providing a safe working environment. Drugs can be seen as a Hazard along with alcohol. The act goes one step further and mentions it is also the employee’s responsibility to ensure their own safety at work and no harm is caused to others. Both the employee and the employer can be fined and imprisoned for failure to act upon these responsibilities.
    In your fourth paragraph, drug testing is a gross invasion of privacy and human rights, that it is no concern of the employer. However as mentioned above, if this becomes a hazard or a potential hazard it is a concern to the employer. I decided to look up the New Zealand Privacy Act of 1993, whilst it may not say anything about drug and alcohol testing Number 3 quite clearly states
    “Person knows in advance, why, who, law for collection, consequence and persons right to access. “My interpretation of this would be if the employee knows why the test is being done and for what purpose, then the employer is within their rights to ask. For example if the balloonist was asked to do a random drug test before he took that flight on that fateful day, we may not have had such a tragedy.
    Michael Cranford as cited in Beauchamp & Bowie (2004) suggests drug testing does not violate boundaries, as set for employee privacy consistent with terms and expectations of employment.
    According to Desjardins & Duska, regularly or random testing will prevent harms done by deterring the occasional user, detecting the chronic user. However the only two tests, seen as morally acceptable and effective are; Regularly & Randomly testing of employees selected for probable cause.
    Drugs like alcohol do affect performance at work. In accordance with employment principles, this is why we use performance reviews and disciplinary action, when needed. According to Desjardins& Duska, if staff are producing, within normal demands there is no reason to test. However if the situation changed a test would be necessary, however if this were the case, the contract with the employee would be terminated.
    However personally I would disagree with this. Both companies I worked with in the past, who did test, believed in counselling and helping the staff to get back to work as quickly as possible. If an employee is a productive staff member, employers will generally work with the employee to help.
    If we looked at virtue ethics, we would say a person’s virtue, is supported by a code encouraging good traits like generosity, honesty and courageous. If you as the employee were honest and admitted there was a problem, the employer would/should view your honesty as an admiral trait and want to help. However if the employer were not virtuous you may find you are without a job.
    In summary whilst it may seem testing is an invasion to privacy and it may be entirely reasonable to expect a train driver is not stoned or drunk while driving, random drug and alcohol testing does prevent harm. Employers should be testing especially, those employees who have positions of trust, drivers, pilots, and medical staff and yes school teachers. School teachers are in a place of trust, we as parents send our children to school to learn, they are at impressionable ages and take everything in. They listen and see and they copy. If it is alright for the teacher to smoke or drink it is ok for them. But it is not ok, especially young children.
    However the big question is where do, we draw the line. Do we test everyone or are there exceptions? You only need to click on a few websites in American to see how much people are up in arms about welfare testing, politicians, doctors and other such exemptions. So whether you agree with me or not, we should be randomly testing everyone, no exceptions!

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