During a lull in my freelance career, I thought I'd register with one of the local temp agencies and do something mindless for a few weeks. When I logged onto the Web site of one agency, there it was, "You must submit to a drug test before we will consider you for employment." I logged off.
I drug tested once. I worked weekends for a zoo in the South, selling memberships in the parking lot. The heat that hovered over the asphalt frequently reached more than one hundred degrees, and drinking a gallon of water over one shift didn't sufficiently hydrate me. The job paid $5.50 an hour plus a percentage. I did good, sold lots of memberships, got a urinary infection, and was invited to return the following summer, at which time they said I had to take a drug test.
"You know me," I said. "Why do I have to take one?"
"New policy," the personnel manager said as he handed me the address. "Go here this afternoon."
And I did. I sat in the waiting room of a clinic whose income was derived solely from drug testing, sharing space with about a dozen men, most of whom were being tested as a condition of their parole. We sat around on the bench and compared drug testing stories, and, one-at-a-time, pissed in a cup and left.
It took quite a while for me to get over the guilt I couldn't shake, even though I hadn't done anything wrong -- for $5.50 an hour. I vowed never to suffer this violation of my Fourth Amendment rights again, at least not unless the job paid enough to actually buy drugs. And I haven't.
The government cannot arbitrarily force you to take a drug test. Yet. But not to be dissuaded, they now have a new plan to invade your privacy by tracking your legal drugs. On August 11, at the Texas White House, the president signed a bill to create a program that will monitor prescription drugs in order to prevent abuse. But it seems obvious that just as with illegal drugs, those who want to secure large quantities of legal drugs will find a way. They always have.
What happened to the other war on drugs anyway? I haven't seen an ad featuring two fried eggs in a long time. Lose one, win one, maybe. The federal budget for that war on drugs is approximately $20 billion a year. Watch the federal and state agencies piss it away at www.drugsense.org/wodclock.htm. The old war that began in the 1970s continues to target the poor and disenfranchised who commit drug "crimes" while rich and/or famous users are treated for their "illness." It has been a lucrative war for many.
The new war is scheduled to spend $60 million through 2010, part of which will be used to update databases and create new ones. Fewer than half of states have similar programs, and each is designed differently. With the feds in charge, information will cross borders and become a permanent record. Anyone who has access to the database will be privy to the existing conditions of purchasers of prescription drugs, and that would be nearly everyone at one time or another. If an unauthorized user broke into the national database (or was given access), simple searches would enable them to compile information that could be used to exclude individuals who apply for health insurance or jack up the rates of those who have it. Statistical analyses could be created that would indicate illness or disease that might be hereditary, thereby tracking generations yet unborn. Pandora's medicine chest would be open.
Jonathan M. Katz covered the signing of this law and its possible impact on Kentucky and surrounding states for the Associated Press. He notes that an amendment proposed by Edward J. Markey (D-MA) that would have provided notification to patients if their information is lost or stolen was defeated in committee. Instead of influencing drug companies to provide affordable drugs for Americans, the federal government, once again, finds another reason to use what amounts to be the simply poor judgment, but not criminal activity, of a few to remove the freedoms of many (in this case, probably all). And you can be sure that just like the first war on drugs, someone will be making money from it.
Sheila Velazquez lives and writes in Bozeman, MT. She can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org.
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