Drug Testing Robs Workforce of Talent and Creativity
By Ellen Komp, Cannabis Culture – Monday, February 11 2013
CANNABIS CULTURE – In Hillary Clinton’s farewell speech as Secretary of State last week, she said, "We need a new architecture for this new world, more Frank Gehry than formal Greek."
Clinton was referring to dealing with the complexities of working with NATO, the United Nations, and world powers, and used for her example the Venice, California-based architect Frank Gehry. Gehry molded a unique style of laid-back architecture that used materials like chain-link fence in the context of the urban sprawl of LA, and is now the world-class architect of the Walt Disney Concert Hall in downtown Los Angeles and the forthcoming Dwight D. Eisenhower memorial.
Someone who worked with Gehry in the 1980s reported him "coming out of rooms with clouds of [marijuana] smoke behind him." It wouldn’t be too surprising. Even Meghan McCain says pot smoking is everywhere in LA.
The well-entrenched drug testing industry is touting their services as the means of achieving a safe and productive workforce, even in the wake of marijuana smokers winning their rights back in Colorado and Washington.
I beg to differ.
First of all, drug testing has never been scientifically shown to be safe or effective at improving workplace safety or productivity, and studies indicate that the great majority of drug-positive workers are just as reliable as others. Medically, the consensus of expert opinion is that drug tests are an inherently unreliable indicator of drug impairment. Dr. George Lundberg of the American Medical Association has called them "Chemical McCarthyism."
Second, by pre-screening away marijuana smokers, we’re weeding out (so to speak) some of our most creative and, I would argue, productive employees. If you doubt that marijuana smokers have contributed to our society, see VeryImportantPotheads.com. In the case of someone using marijuana for medical purposes, it’s downright discrimination to deny them employment for using what a doctor has legally recommended under state law.
Silicon Valley, the brainchild of entrepreneurs like Steve Jobs and Bill Gates (who both admittedly smoked pot in their youth), notoriously does not drug test its employees, knowing they’d lose much of their talent that way. Yet the region is responsible for much of California’s economic productivity, in one of the few non-military industries the US has. Pot-friendly Hollywood is another shining example of an industry that exports instead of imports to the US, like most of our consumables.
It’s not surprising that Clinton would mention a possible pot smoker, since quite likely she was one herself and the president she worked for certainly was. Would either have benefited from a world that imprisoned or discriminated against them for their youthful or weekend indulgences? I think not.
Henry Ford’s method of sending investigators into his workers’ homes to observe their drinking habits seems outrageous today, yet employers are basically doing the same thing by demanding its workers pee in a cup on Monday to find out what they did on Friday night. Is it really their business?
There is an alternative called impairment testing that has been shown to be more effective than drug testing at assuring workers’ safety. But chemical tests are entrenched, in our political process, and with businesses and insurance companies. The more forward-thinking ideas are, so far, crushed under the Greek architecture of the old days.
Of Gehry, Clinton said, "Some of his work at first might appear haphazard, but in fact, it’s highly intentional and sophisticated. Where once a few strong columns could hold up the weight of the world, today we need a dynamic mix of materials and structures." We also need a dynamic and varied work force, one that might even look haphazard from the outside, to meet the challenges of today’s world.
Carl Sagan, one of the many productive members of society who enjoyed marijuana, said, "The illegality of cannabis is outrageous, an impediment to full utilization of a drug which helps produce the serenity and insight, sensitivity and fellowship so desperately needed in this increasingly mad and dangerous world."
It won’t do us much good to end the injustice of marijuana prohibition if only the unemployed can exercise their right to use it. And those companies who exercise drug testing have only a piss-poor workforce.