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Former drug czars go into the testing business, oppose legailization


Two of the former Drug Enforcement Agency officials who came out this week urging the federal government to nullify new state pot laws in Washington and Colorado are facing criticism for simultaneously running a company that may profit from keeping marijuana illegal.

Robert L. DuPont, who was White House drug czar under Presidents Nixon and Ford, and Peter Bensinger, who was administrator of the Drug Enforcement Administration in the 1970s, today run Bensinger, DuPont & Associates, a company that specializes in workplace drug testing, among other employee programs. Both men signed an open (along with eight other former DEA officials) addressed to Senate Judiciary Committee members this week criticizing the Obama administration for failing to quickly address the new states laws legalizing pot, which are inconsistent with federal law.

Paul Armentano, deputy director of the pro-marijuana nonprofit NORML, points to DuPont and Bensigner's work in drug testing as problematic.

"These individuals still have financial and professional interests in ancillary businesses and endeavors that benefit from keeping marijuana illegal," he says. "So there's a lot of bluster to imply the sky is falling, while to the rest of the public this is no big deal." Armentano cites a number of recent public opinion studies on pot, including a 2011 study from Gallup that found at least half of America today supports legalizing marijuana.

"Pot." Does anybody really call it "pot" anymore?

I would imagine the private prison industry is against legalization, too. Ditto drug cartels. And the banks that launder their money, of course.

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Submitted by Lex on

Aside from decidedly unhip people trying to sound hip and failing, it might be worth unpacking the drug testing business a little.

Marijuana tests, at least the common urine tests, don't test for THC directly but for related chemicals that are synthesized in the body during metabolization of THC. They stick around for a long time, sometimes more than a month depending on use, body fat, kidney function, etc. So a person who smokes on Friday night can fail weeks afterwards, regardless of whether usage occurred in a time where it might affect job performance.

For the other generally used recreational drugs, this is not the case. You could blow a whole 8-ball of coke by yourself on Friday night and pass a cocaine drug test on Monday morning. Opioids last a bit longer in the system, but you still pretty much need to be feeling the effects (if reduced) of usage to fail a drug test. The only drug use that testing actually deters in terms of recreational use as opposed to use during work hours is marijuana.

In effect, this creates a perverse incentive for recreational drug users under a testing regime. It is in fact safer - employment wise - to use harder drugs. Of course, regular recreational use of harder drugs often leads to regular maintenance use or even addiction. The other inconsistency is that with random employment tests, an on the spot failure is provisional upon further testing. If the subject can produce a doctor's note they'll be reinstated and generally with back pay (particularly in unions). That's fairly easy for opioids and even methamphetamines given that both are regularly prescribed. I've seen guys get their jobs back after a positive, guys that i know are serious and on-the-job abusers of multiple hard drugs. The coke didn't show up and the opioids were dismissed with a pain killer prescription. And this is America, almost everyone has at least one bottle of opium based medication at home.

Submitted by Lex on

You're welcome. As an addendum, the man who developed the marijuana urine test happens to be British. He testified in front of Parliament when the UK was debating the adoption of his test. He told them not to do it, to not ever use it because of what he saw with its US implementation. (Don't know if they listened ...)

Neil in Chicago's picture
Submitted by Neil in Chicago on

With the cops and the jails and the judges and the lawyers and the whole prison-industrial complex and its dependents . . . I still have never seen a serious estimate of how many jobs the "War on Drugs" supports. I fear it's in the neighborhood of a million.
Remember, marijuana became the devil's weed when a bunch of (alcohol) Prohibition agents lost their jobs with the repeal of Prohibition . . .