Tucson's Arizona Daily Star, Nov. 28 1992

Rights? What Rights?

How the Constitution lost the War on Drugs

   Ask Americans what makes them so special and most will talk about liberty,
freedom and a lot Bill of Rights stuff.
   Ask Arizonans to hand over one of those rights in the name of the War on
Drugs, and most will say, "sure."
   A recent poll of Arizona employees found 95 percent favor some sort of
workplace drug testing. Fifty-six percent support random drug testing of all
employees, whether there was cause to suspect a problem or not.
  So much for the Fourth Amendment's guarantee against unreasonable searches
and seizures. So much for the "right of the people to be secure in their
  So much for common sense.
  Drug testing is a simplistic non-solution. It ignores the causes of illegal
drug use. It treats a freedom-loving people like chattle. It is often
inaccurate. It is an invasion of privacy.
   And it magnifies the problem all out of proportion. In 1985, say
at the University of California at San Francisco, alcohol abuse accounted for
$27.4 billion in lost productivity; drug use accounted for $6 billion.
   In 1989, the National Institute on Drug Abuse reported that drug abuse had
been declining for 10 years, most dramatically in the last five years. Severe
problems do exist, especialy among unemployed, disenfranchised Americans who
seek escape from their miserable lives in addiction. But these people are not
the target of the frenzy to install an Office of Drug Testing in every
   Drug abuse on the job is a problem, and, depending on the type of job, it
can be dangerous. But when a freedom-loving nation begins to mindlessly
acquiesce to an erosion of its freedoms, that's a bigger problem.
   More and more private businesses are requiring drug tests. They are spurred
on by the self-serving interests of those who make money selling drug tests.
Together they, and the federal Captains of the Drug War, are whipping up the
populace: Give us your privacy and we'll solve the drug problem.
   Private businesses may be within their legal rights to demand drug tests.
But should Americans be bleating approval of this invasive approach? Shouldn't
they be demanding better answers?
   They should be, but they aren't. The recent Gallup poll of 500 Arizona
workers was comissioned by the Washington-based Institute for a Drug Free
Workplace. The institute, representing businesses, is conducting 12 such polls
around the nation. It won't be surprising if all show similar results. Previous
polls have indicated support nationally for random drug testing.
   America says it's OK to strip away a few rights in the name of War on
Which suggests the freedom Americans love the most may be the freedom from