Saturday, August 06, 2005

Roadside Drug Testing

Thought this was interesting. Found in the latest Rolling Stone issue:

High on Drug Testing by L. Christopher Smith

The Bush administration wants to bust motorists for "driving while drugged"

Drug tests may soon be coming to a highway near you. Under "drugged-driving initiatives" passed in eleven states, cops can already test motorists involved in an accident to see if they're under the influence of an illegal substance. But within a year, the police may be armed with a new generation of devices -- and a new federal law -- that make it possible to test drivers right by the side of the road.

With help from the Bush administration, the drug-testing industry is developing saliva kits, which use a toothbrush-shaped swab to instantly analyze a driver's spit for drugs. The kits eliminate the need for blood and urine samples, making it easy for police to test drivers on the spot. But the test doesn't simply determine if you're high -- it tells the cops whether you've done illegal drugs any time in the past week, meaning that someone who smoked a joint at a party Saturday night could fail a drug test while driving to work the following Monday.

"We could start seeing people getting pulled over simply because they have a Grateful Dead bumper sticker on their car," says Graham Boyd, director of the Drug Law Reform Project of the ACLU. "These people could get tested right there on the road, and it would have nothing to do with driving under the influence of drugs."

The push for roadside drug testing is being driven in large part by Michael Walsh, a former associate director to the drug czar who now runs his own drug-test company. Backed by federal funding, Walsh is currently testing saliva kits for widespread use and is pressuring Congress to extend workplace drug regulations to all licensed U.S. drivers. In 2002, Walsh and the White House lobbied states to enact "zero tolerance" laws that treat drivers who test positive for drugs as criminals -- even if they have only trace elements of marijuana in their systems.

"The point of this legislation is to get drugged drivers off the road," says Ed Orlett, a former Ohio legislator who is fighting a drugged-driving bill up for a final vote in the state House. "But the laws are written in such a way that they have nothing to do with impairment. It's just a way to punish social drug users."

1 comment:

Dr 4LOM said...

The litigious holes in this plan are so huge it's rediculous. First off, we're talking about a drug test that doesn't prove that you're currently under the effects of the drug. So to be charged with "driving while drugged" can easily be beaten by forcing the state to prove that you were actually under the intoxicating influence of the drug at the time you were actually driving. The trouble there is that you'd still be admitting in court that you consumed those substances, but then again, most drug laws bias toward possession, not usage. Another trip to the books of semantic argument come from the fact that marijuana isn't a toxin. Therefore if any of this centers around "intoxicated drivers", no mary jane offense could be included. That of course depends on your definition of "inhaled" of course, but still if Ohio pushes this through, they are just continuing to criminalize things that cost more money for the state to resolve than they actually solve a problem which is people driving under the influence of substances that impair judgement. My answer? You want to lower the amount of accidents on the road? Make attempted murder apply in all severe accidents, not just those that involve alcohol. Why? Because one of our biggest societal conflicts is who to point the finger at. We've chosen individuals, we've chosen substances, we've chosen parents, we've chosen all sorts of things without just dealing with the actual problem. If people aren't cautious on the road, it doesn't matter if they've had too much to drink, smoked the wrong pipe or just had a bad headache, they make themselves a risk to others.