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The GOP's Drug-Testing Dragnet | The Nation

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The GOP's Drug-Testing Dragnet

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The drug-testing industry took aim at lawmakers as much as employers. Hoffmann-La Roche, for instance, worked “with federal and state government officials,” according to a press release issued by the PR company hired to market the campaign. Lerner told the press that the drug company also envisioned a “grassroots strategy” to prevent states from passing laws to decriminalize marijuana.

This story was produced with support from the Economic Hardship Reporting Project.

About the Author

Isabel Macdonald
Isabel Macdonald is a freelance journalist and former communications director of the media watch group Fairness and...

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By 2006, 84 percent of American employers were reporting that they drug-tested their workers. Today, drug testing is a multi-billion-dollar-a-year industry. DATIA represents more than 1,200 companies and employs a DC-based lobbying firm, Washington Policy Associates. Hoffmann-La Roche’s former consultant, David Evans, now runs his own lobbying firm and has ghostwritten several state laws to expand drug testing. Most significant, in the 1990s Evans crafted the Workplace Drug Testing Act for the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), of which Hoffmann-La Roche was a paying member. Laying out protocols for workplace drug testing, the bill—which has been enacted into law in several states—upheld the rights of employers to fire employees who do not comply with their companies’ drug-free workplace program.

Over the past decade, lobbyists like Evans have focused on what a DATIA newsletter recently dubbed “the next frontier”—schoolchildren. In 2002, a representative from the influential drug-testing management firm Besinger, DuPont & Associates heralded schools as “potentially a much bigger market than the workplace.” That year, the Supreme Court upheld the right of schools to drug-test any student involved in extracurricular activities, from the football team to the chess club. (Many in the drug-testing industry advocate testing all school kids ages 12 and up, but they have failed thus far to convince the courts.)

Like Elaine Taulé, David Evans turned to his own kids for inspiration. He helped the two New Jersey high schools where his children were students to craft drug-testing policies and then set about promoting them as models for schools across the country. In a 2004 radio address, President George W. Bush singled out one of them, Hunterdon Central Regional High School, as a sterling example of “the positive results of drug testing across the country” and proposed committing $23 million of federal education funds to drug-testing high schoolers.

Studies have shown that there is no difference in levels of drug use at schools that subject students to testing and those that do not. And some drug policy experts worry that drug testing may push students away from marijuana and toward drugs such as cocaine, heroin and alcohol—those not generally detected by urine tests.

Nevertheless, Taulé sighed contentedly in the hotel lobby outside DATIA’s 2012 meeting. “It’s like it’s come full circle,” the Florida entrepreneur says. “I started off wanting to help kids, and now I am.” Taulé, who has received two grants from the Department of Education to collect the urine of Florida school kids, somehow can’t stop testing her own sons. Now well into middle age, and both employed at their mother’s drug-testing firm, her sons walk up to us and shyly ask permission to join the interview.

Settling into an upholstered chair across from his mom, 50-year-old Marc Taulé laughs nervously, recalling the last time his mom made him hand over his urine—last year. To everyone’s surprise, he tested positive for cocaine. He’s not a cocaine user; he had been prescribed a painkiller called Lidocaine after minor surgery. “I love them, and just don’t want to see them in trouble,” Elaine Taulé explains.

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