Tag Archives: law

Mendocino setting the standard for medical marijuana access

Mendocino Supes Add Measure G to County Code

Dear Friends,

Living in Mendocino is like nothing I’ve ever experienced before. People here are different and living here is like living in the future of your wildest dreams.  Just take a look at what we’ve persuaded the County Board of Supervisors to adopt as law:

“Neither the Mendocino County Board of Supervisors, nor the Sheriff, nor the District Attorney shall spend or authorize the expenditure of any public funds for the investigation, arrest, or prosecution of any

person, or the seizure of any property in any single case involving

25 or fewer adult flowering female marijuana plants or the equivalent

in dried marijuana, nor shall the Auditor Controller or the

Treasurer- Tax Collector approve any such requests for such expenditures of public funds, or authorize or approve the issuance of any form of payment should such expenditures be made.”

Below is a press release that just went out to explain what has happened here.  Don’t look for any media play now, because we are probably too far in the future for them to understand, but here in

Mendocino, the future is NOW!

Let freedom grow,

Steve

————–

Release Date:

April 19, 2007

Contacts:

Steve Kubby, National Director

The American Medical Marijuana Association (AMMA)

http://www.americanmarijuana.org/

707-964-7743

Board of Supervisors Office

bos@co.mendocino.ca.us

(707) 463-4221

(707) 463-4245 Fax

Mendocino Supes Add Measure G to County Code

UKIAH — Six years after the voters of Mendocino County passed Measure G with a whopping 60% landslide, the Mendocino County Board of Supervisors have finally taken the first steps to add Measure G to the County Code.

The American Medical Marijuana Association applauds this historic action by the Board and salutes those who helped make this victory a reality, including Dr. William Courtney, Jim and Trelanie Hill, Rob Garzini, Dane Wilkins, Dale Gieringer, Pebbles Trippet, Kristen Peskuski, Ralf Laguna, Paula Deeter, Edie Lerman, Dr. Michael Baldwin, and advisors John Gilmore and Tom Knapp.

Special recognition should also be given to Richard Johnson, the author of Measure G and head of the Mendocino Green Party.  Thanks Richard for this historic victory!

Measure G is to be incorporated into Chapter 9 of the Code as Section

9.36.010-090.

Below is the full text of Mendocino’s new Ordinance:

Section 9.36.10: FINDINGS

The People of Mendocino County find as follows:

A)  Cannabis sativa (marijuana) is a beneficial plant with a respectable heritage and hundreds of well-known industrial, medicinal and recreational uses;

B)  Two decades of marijuana law enforcement in Mendocino County has not stopped cultivation here but has unnecessarily marginalized a large number of otherwise law abiding citizens who grow and use marijuana;

C)  Those who grow for personal use are not responsible for violent incidents sometimes associated with marijuana cultivation, but are vulnerable to theft;

D)  The Institute of Medicine has found that marijuana has bona fide medical uses and is not a gateway to hard drug addiction;

E)  Law enforcement has carried out investigations, confiscations, and arrests against persons cultivating and using medical marijuana under Proposition 215 in Mendocino County;

F)  The cities of Berkeley and San Francisco have longstanding ordinances which instruct police to minimize the priority of marijuana enforcement.

Section 9.36.20: PURPOSE

The Ordinance codified in this Chapter will:

A. Instruct the county government to support all efforts toward the decriminalization of marijuana;

B. Instruct the county sheriff and district attorney to make marijuana enforcement their lowest priority with respect to other crimes;

C. Establish a maximum limit of plants and weight for cultivation and possession of marijuana for personal use in Mendocino County, and prohibit the expenditure of public funds for enforcement of marijuana laws against cultivators and users in possession of quantities below that limit.

D. Remove the fear of prosecution and the stigma of criminality from people who harmlessly cultivate and/or use marijuana for personal medical or recreational purposes.

E. Extend police protection to those growing or possessing marijuana for personal use;

F. Provide for the continued enforcement of marijuana laws against those who cultivate, transport and possess marijuana for sale.

The purpose of this chapter is to establish Cannabis enforcement policy for Mendocino County.

Section 9.36.30: DECRIMINALIZATION OF CANNABIS IN CALIFORNIA

It is the desire of the people of Mendocino County that the cultivation for personal use of Cannabis be decriminalized in

California. In this context, the board of supervisors is directed to lobby state and federal governments for the immediate decriminalization of the personal use of Cannabis, specifically by repealing Sections 11357, (possession), 11358, (transportation), and

– 11359, (cultivation), of the California Health and Safety Code. The people also urge the Sheriff and District Attorney to publicly support such decriminalization.

Section 9.36.40: LAW ENFORCEMENT PRIORITY OF CANNABIS

Through its budgetary authority, the Mendocino County Board of Supervisors shall seek to ensure that the Sheriff’s Office and the District Attorney give lowest priority to the enforcement and prosecution of marijuana laws.

Section 9.36.50: SHERIFF OFFICE ARRESTS AND CITATIONS

The Board of Supervisors shall use its budgetary authority to ensure that the Sheriff’s Office makes no arrests and issues no citations for violations of the above state Health and Safety Code sections in any single case involving 25 or fewer adult flowering female marijuana plant or the equivalent in dried marijuana.

Section 9.36.60: DISTRICT ATTORNEY PROSECUTIONS

The Board of Supervisors shall use its funding authority to ensure that the District Attorney shall not prosecute any violations of the above state Health and Safety Code sections nor seize any property in any single case involving 25 or fewer adult flowering female marijuana plants or the equivalent in dried marijuana.

Section 9.36.70: EXPENDITURE OF FUNDS FOR CANNABIS ENFORCEMENT

Neither the Mendocino County Board of Supervisors, nor the Sheriff, nor the District Attorney shall spend or authorize the expenditure of any public funds for the investigation, arrest, or prosecution of any person, or the seizure of any property in any single case involving 25 or fewer adult flowering female marijuana plants or the equivalent in dried marijuana, nor shall the Auditor Controller or the

Treasurer- Tax Collector approve any such requests for such expenditures of public funds, or authorize or approve the issuance of any form of payment should such expenditures be made.

Section 9.36.80: REPORTING

The Board of Supervisors shall instruct the Sheriff’s Office and District Attorney to report on December 1 of each year regarding marijuana law enforcement and prosecution activities engaged in by themselves and by state, federal, and/or other law enforcement agencies within the County of Mendocino.

Section 9.36.90: SERVERABILITY

The people of Mendocino County intend that in case a court of competent jurisdiction should find one or more of the above Sections illegal, the remaining Sections remain in full force and effect.

Fresh Washington State Cannabis Education – Choogle On #120

Visiting pal Hemp Ed in Pe Ell, Washington, Uncle Weed gets up to date on the emerging and ambiguous regulatory framework for production, distribution and retailing of cannabis in the aftermath of Washington Initiative 502. Plus conversation on the state of industrial hemp, small scale growing operations, the impact of state-imported weed, and the role of the Liquor Control Board as arbiter – while smoking a joint in his medical experiment facility next to a cedar sauna.

Change the Law with Fresh Washington State Cannabis Education – Choogle On #120

Fresh Washington State Cannabis Education

Continue reading Fresh Washington State Cannabis Education – Choogle On #120

Privacy Issues in Workplace Drug Testing

Privacy Issues in Workplace Drug Testing

By Dave Olson

Originally Written for Privacy, Freedom and Security Program At Evergreen State College Spring 2004

– 1- © Dave Olson 2004-5, Privacy Issues in Workplace Drug Testing

The Straight Dope, an Introduction

Laws maintain that employment in the private sector is “at-will” meaning employers may fire employees whenever they choose without reason. In the public sector, workers are afforded somewhat more privacy under the Fourth Amendment prohibiting unreasonable search and seizure, and under the Fifth Amendment that protects against self-incrimination while ensuring due process. Certainly collective bargaining on the private side, and discrimination laws in both arenas mean to protect workers from undue harassment. However, due to the difficulty in determining a universally applicable standard of “what is reasonable,” especially on balance with social safety concerns, most any employee may be subjected to analysis for illicit drugs at the employer’s whim. Indeed, employers conduct about 45 million drug tests each year,i despite conflicting reports of effectiveness and degrees of privacy which vary from state to state, court to court.

While most people feel that workers in immediate control of public safety (bus drivers, airline pilots, nuclear technicians) should be sober and clear whilst working, the wide-spread of use of drug testing in non-safety sensitive vocations presents a conflict. On one hand, the possibility of advances in workplace safety and efficiency, while on the other hand, the acceptable level of intrusion into an employee’s most personal details.

To find the fulcrum in this conundrum, I seek to identify the privacy issues surrounding work-related drug testing and resultant ramifications (both positive and negative) to employers, employees and the public at large.

To do so, this report will reference noteworthy Executive Orders, Federal legislation and relevant Court rulings to address workplace drug testing as a privacy issue. Additionally, I’ll examine workplace studies to answer questions such as: What are the workplace environment advantages or disadvantages or maintaining a “drug free” workplace? What substances (legal or illegal) actually adversely affect workplace performance?

Additionally, using and relevant anecdotal and personal experiences, I’ll address practical situations which employees and employers face when drug testing actually occurs. What are procedures for actually ‘performing the test’? Who is required to submit? Who can refuse? What can happen? What can employers and employees do to mitigate the risk? What can past-employers say to inquiries about employee drug test results?

I’ll review the processes and procedures for conduct drug tests, methods to cheat tests and find the economic beneficiaries from the drug testing industry. Finally, I’ll suggest alternative solutions and strategies for achieving the same stated goals of increased workplace and public safety.

– 2- © Dave Olson 2004-5, Privacy Issues in Workplace Drug Testing

Up To Here, The Origins of Workplace Drug Testing

Since 1986 when the Federal government began testing employees for drugs, thirty-two states have enacted varying drug testing statutes of some kind. While some states’ laws seek to protect employees from unwarranted testing, others seek to encourage employers to conduct tests. This, among other problems, causes confusion for employees and employers who operate in multiple jurisdictions.

For example, California courts determine if a test is permitted by balancing the employer’s business need against the employee’s right to privacy outlined in the state constitutionii and rule in favor of the most compelling interest. California courts also ruled that asking applicants to disclose prescription drug use prior to the test was illegal under the American with Disabilities Act. In New York, employers may not refuse to hire or fire based on use of alcohol or prescription drug use off the job.iii

Though the Supreme Court has never specifically ruled on the legality of random workplace drug testing, prior to 1986, U.S. Courts maintained a record of striking down mass drug testing programs as unreasonable searches and seizures. Particularly poignant is the 1973 ruling by the U.S. Ninth Circuit Court in U.S. v. Davis that addressed the argument that by disclosing the existence of required testing lowers the expectation of privacy. This thinking would leave public sector employees at the mercy of giving up their Constitutional rights to gain employment. The court decided that, “The government could not avoid the restrictions of the Fourth Amendment by notifying the public that all telephone lines will be tapped, or that all homes will be searched.” Additionally, the court put forth that, “If a blanket search program has little or no effectiveness, it is in substance merely a kind of harassment, a show of power, or a ‘fishing expedition’, and therefore, per se, unreasonable under the Fourth Amendment.”iv

Specifically, in Lovvorn v. City of Chattanooga, the US District Court of Tennessee ruled against the mass testing of fire fighters without individualized “reasonable suspicion” despite arguments from prosecutors that firefighters have less presumption of privacy since they live in the same quarters and use common restroom facilities. A similar conclusion was reached in a 1985 case (Odehiem v. Rutherford Regional School District) dealing with a policy requiring students to submit urine samples as a part of a routine physical. The New Jersey Supreme Court pointed out that 28 of 520 who tested positive did not represent a justifiable reason to test all students.v

In 1986, former President Ronald Reagan (b. 1911, d. 2004) signed Executive Order 12564 entitled, “Drug-free Federal Workplace.” The order which cited “billions of dollars of lost

– 3- © Dave Olson 2004-5, Privacy Issues in Workplace Drug Testing

productivity each year,” a concern for “the well-being of its employees,” and “profits from illegal drug use provide the single greatest source of income for organized crime, fuel violent street crime, and otherwise contribute to the breakdown of our society.” The Order ordered each Executive agency to establish drug-testing programs when there is reasonable suspicion, in the event of an accident or unsafe practice, or as part of follow-up for rehabilitation program. Though the Order also put forth that, “procedures for providing urine specimens must allow individual privacy, unless agency has reason to believe that a particular individual may alter or substitute the specimen to be provided.”vi

In 1988 during the “crack cocaine epidemic,” the 100th Congress enacted the Drug-free Workplace Act. P.L 100-690, Title V, Subtitle D of the omnibus anti-drug legislation required federal grantees and contractors to certify that they maintain a drug-free workplace with the exception of law enforcement agencies in undercover operations.vii

Requirements vary depending in type of organization administering the contract but are mostly governed internally through notices and policies. For example, individuals receiving federal contracts must sign a certification stating, “as a condition of the grant, I will engage in the unlawful manufacture, distribution, dispensing, possession or use of a controlled substance in conducting any activity associated with the grant.”

This law created an explosive new industry for certification associations as well as a boon to the lab testing industry and trade associations for the testing labs themselves. The Drug and Alcohol Testing Industry Association’s web-site cites numerous reasons for certification from their association including, “builds self-esteem,” “offers greater professional recognition from peers,” and provides for greater earnings potential.”viii

In a 1989 case National Employee’s Union v. United States Custom Service the Supreme Court ruled that urine testing is considered search seizure under the Fourth Amendment but not necessarily a violation of such. They established the rather vague gauge of the reasonable expectation of privacy.

In 1989, the Supreme Court upheld the requirement that U.S. Customs agents who carry a gun, participate in drug interdiction operations, or handle classified materials may be tested. Justice Scalia in dissent said that testing Customs employees was an, “immolation of privacy and human dignity in symbolic opposition to drug use” and “this was a “type of search particularly destructive of privacy and offensive to personal dignity.ix”

In a 1995 case, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that student athletes may be tested, regardless of suspicion, despite only twelve positive tests in four and a half years of blanket testing. Yet

– 4- © Dave Olson 2004-5, Privacy Issues in Workplace Drug Testing

in this ruling, Justice Scalia ruled that students lack many fundamental rights to self- determination and student athletes specifically have a lower expectation of privacy since they shower together and act as role models for the student body. Justice Scalia’s argument seems to ignore that all students generally shower communally in physical education classes, and role models may come from school band, chess club, drama club, or honor societies which are not obligated to test.

– 5- © Dave Olson 2004-5, Privacy Issues in Workplace Drug Testing

Privacy Issues and Conundrums

Drug testing relies on a compliant workforce to submit to the testing. Indeed, the economic motivator is sufficient to compel most workers to test despite personal misgivings and widespread chagrin such is outlined in activist writer Abbie Hoffman’s book “Steal this Urine Test.”

Though employers maintain that “if you don’t have anything to hide, then you why do you resist” tests regularly cause casual (or causal) users to attempt to deceive tests to maintain their livelihood. This creates an industry of both drug testers (including test kit makers and laboratories and hospitals specializing in testing) as well as carpet-bagger companies marketing all sorts of snake-oil remedies for beating tests.

Indeed a look through so-called counter-culture magazines reveals an increasing assortment of sophisticated of test beaters from “guaranteed” powdered drinks to fake penises to fill with dehydrated urine (one advertises that all urine is taken from a bible study group). Additionally, anecdotal home remedies abound from loading up on the herb goldenseal and vitamins, to drinking copious amounts of white vinegar, to putting Drano crystals under fingernails to pollute the test.

Regardless of the method used to conduct or defraud the test, the fundamental privacy issues at stake remain the same and can be divided into internal issues (those to do with things inside the body) and external issues (those to do with the surrounding context of the test).

‘Internal intrusion’ issues start with the questions: What exactly are they testing for? And what else are they finding out? Examples of ethically inappropriate, but not necessarily illegal, findings could include a number of characteristics that employers may wish to avoid for a variety of reasons. This list includes: – Pregnancy (in Washington DC, the police admitted that they routinely tested all female

applicants’ urine collected for drug tests for pregnancy without knowledge or consentx); – Use addictive but legal prescription painkillers (e.g.: oxycontin), habitually abused

tranquilizers (e.g.: valium), or anti-depressant drugs (e.g.: prozac); – Details on genetic makeup (i.e.: tendencies towards illnesses that could affect health

insurance premiums).

Additionally, within this internal context, legally protected discrimination issues arise as the ADA maintains that alcoholism and drug addictions are diseases and employees cannot be discriminated if they are dealing with such an affliction.xi An example is methadone a drug commonly prescribed as a treatment drug for heroin addicts. Certainly the presence of such

– 6- © Dave Olson 2004-5, Privacy Issues in Workplace Drug Testing

chemical would indicate a past (or present) narcotic problem, certainly limiting a recovering addicts employment chances.

‘External intrusion’ issues begin with the embarrassment of authoritative observation of one’s ‘private’ parts which most humans (naturalists not withstanding) feel much more comfortable keeping concealed. Certainly since childhood, the personal act of urination is one performed with the door closed and in some cases can only be done in private. Medically recognized conditions such as ‘shy bladder’ syndrome, medically called paruresis, may cause an employee to be physically or psychologically unable to perform a urine test causing a violation in an employer’s policy.xii

A recent example of this situation involves an employee who was terminated after being unable to urinate, even after drinking a substantial amount of water. With the threat of termination for non-compliance with the test, the employee paid for and passed a more hair- based test (generally considered more accurate). Yet the company would not accept the result and fired the employee who is now suing for wrongful dismissal under the ADA. The company in question put forth through a spokesperson that, “We believe that our drug testing policy does not violate the Americans with Disabilities Act, and we intend to defend against the allegations.”xiii

Besides the observation is the handling of test results which may pass through many hands, including hospital and lab staff, compromising integrity and confidentiality especially in a small community. Further, results or rumors may be inappropriately distributed amongst company or industry causing damage to professional and personal reputation. Anecdotally, while in a hospital waiting room, I overheard the loud conversational voice of the receptionist check in no less than eight people coming in for pre-employment urinalysis and chatting about other people who had been in recently to test. While the employee’s intent was (likely) not malicious, one does not need to project very far to imagine such irresponsible coffee room chatter about results.

– 7- © Dave Olson 2004-5, Privacy Issues in Workplace Drug Testing

Effectiveness of Drug Testing Programs

Results of scientific studies regarding drug testing and increased workplace safety, absenteeism and performance vary greatly. One research study lists accidents among bus drivers reduced while another shows higher drug use among employed people versus unemployed people. Other studies show increased alcohol abuse resulting from drug testing.

An article by Ellen Nakashima in the Detroit News discussing Federal employees protesting random drug tests cited a 1993-98 study by the Health and Human Services Department. Over this six-year period and 257,576 random drug tests, 1,345 people (0.52%) tested positive at cost of over thirty one million dollars (not including administrative costs), or $232,637 per positive test.xiv

As expected, different sides interpret the data differently. The agency’s workplace director purports that the program, “sends a signal to a person who is even thinking of using illegal drugs that they are putting their jobs in jeopardy.”xv

A statistician for the American Management Association points out the absence of a statistical case that screening acts a deterrent mentioning that, despite increase in random tests, rates of positive tests remain constant. As a result of this and the associated lab expenses, more employers are moving towards suspicion and accident based tests, even using undercover operatives to ferret out offenders.

The U.S. Navy boasted to a Senate subcommittee that with the advent of testing, positive results dropped from 48% to 21% over a two year period (1980-82) however the glowing proud Rear Admiral neglected to mention the corresponding increase in alcohol usexvi.

The U.S. Department of Labor puts reinforces this double standard pointing out that “Alcohol is the most widely abused drug among working adults” and is responsible for 86% of costs imposed on businesses by drug abuse. A study by the National Comorbidity Survey points out that about 9% of marijuana smokers meet the American Psychiatric Association criteria for “Substance dependence” while the figure jumps to 15% for alcohol.xvii

The argument of whether “users of illegal drugs make less productive workers” is inconclusive since topical studies are subject to faulty science, small test populations, and malleable statistics.

In a 1990 New Republic article writer John Horgan discussed J. Michael Walsh’s scientific procedures, (Walsh is the director of National Institute of Drug Abuse’s whose findings form

– 8- © Dave Olson 2004-5, Privacy Issues in Workplace Drug Testing

the basis of Federal drug enforcement policy). Horgan suggests that Walsh’s zero-tolerance line “doesn’t discriminate between use and abuse, between a secretary smoking marijuana on weekends and an AIDS-ridden prostitute smoking $100 worth of crack a day.”xviii

Indeed studies which lump illicit substances together as though the societal costs were equal begs the question of: What is the point behind testing at all? Walsh hints at the reasoning when he puts forth that, “I think we have reached the point where the involvement of marijuana in accidents exceeds that of alcohol.” Where is the proof in this dramatic statement Horgan asks? Walsh doesn’t have any but says, “it’s one of the things in my research program we’re trying to prove right now.”xix

– 9- © Dave Olson 2004-5, Privacy Issues in Workplace Drug Testing

Fill the Cup – Testing Processes and Procedures

While beyond the scope of this paper to extensively detail, it is worthwhile to briefly outline the types of testing and the procedures involved in provided sample to better understand the level of intrusion associated with any kind of test and the associated risks.

The types of samples obtained for testing are: Urine – the most common and hence the least expensive, detects past use of drugs but not current intoxication; Blood – can detect current intoxication but not past use, drawing blood is uncomfortable for may people and requires training to handle draw and handle sample; Hair – newer technology which proponents suggest is most accurate and can be read like timeline, others argue the test is bias against dark-haired people and inaccurate for marijuana use; Saliva and sweat patch – least sensitive and can only measure for a few hours after use.xx

Specifically addressing urinalysis, depending on the stringentness of the tests, the routine varies in the degree of invasiveness. In general, the testee is obliged to pee in a controlled area under some degree of observation. In some cases, the tester watches the actual genitalia, in others cases, the merely stands next to, or a stall and monitors for unusual behavior.

In some cases, the testee changes into a hospital gown to prevent concealment of a bladder (a technique detailed in Hoffman’s aforementioned book) while in other situations, testees are simply patted. In most all cases the subject must vigorously wash hands and arms and remove wristwatch to prevent fouling the tests with a foreign substance. The toilet bowl is usually colored with a dye agent to prevent the testee from watering down the sample. In other cases, an empty pail is used to catch excess sample urine.

When labs use proper care and sophisticated tests, false positives are increasing rare. This however is not always the case as drug test kits are available for purchase by anyone at prices starting at about ten dollars (incidentally some online brokers sell both the drug kits and drug test cheat kits). In these instances, a variety of substances can trigger false positives.

“Even a 99% accurate test produces one false positive result out of 100 people tested. Given that more that 30 million Americans were tested last year, this means 300,000 false results were delivered!”xxi

– 10 – © Dave Olson 2004-5, Privacy Issues in Workplace Drug Testing

In addition to substance related false positives, numerous human means of human error can create an unscientific result. Potential human errors include mislabeling, mixing up samples, tampering, mixed up paperwork, unclean sample jars and improper lab work.

The professional (read: expensive) routine is to first use an “immunoassay test” and confirm positive results with a more accurate “gas chromatograph mass spectrometer test” measuring metabolites.xxii Advanced labs will also use “split samples” allowing an extra portion to retest if results are inconclusive or contested. An employee may want to request a split sample to be re-tested by another lab depending on result.

In less accurate tests, false positive are obtained with otherwise benign substances like poppy seeds (heroin), hemp oil products and over-the-counter drugs like ibuprofen (marijuana), cold remedies and allergy medication (amphetamines). Plus, numerous prescription drugs (which you may be requested to disclose beforehand) may cause interaction with the tests. Various medicated shampoos (for dandruff) have produced false positives in hair tests.

It is worth noting the confusion over which are ‘bad drugs, e.g.: medical marijuana is recognized in thirteen states yet not on a Federal level preventing an established prescription routine. Drug test timeframes vary by drug – i.e.: alcohol (hours), meth-amphetamine & cocaine (days) marijuana (weeks), LSD (years) creating an uneven playing field. Showing ironically, substances with high risk of habitual abuse often stay in system for a shorter period than those with less habit-forming characteristics.

– 11 – © Dave Olson 2004-5, Privacy Issues in Workplace Drug Testing

Drug Testing Situations and Scenarios

To test or not to test, that is the question. While companies have the legal ability to institute a drug-testing program, before doing so, the company should clearly define what the ‘big picture’ of testing is. In other words, what is the company trying to prevent or produce by instituting a drug testing policy?

Many companies rely on outside contractors and labs to administrate and enact policies however a policy customized to the needs and culture of the company is a worthy consideration.

Some of the reasons a company may wish to institute a program include:

• Creates a public marketplace impression of being a ‘clean’ workplace; • Ability to discover medical data beyond drug use about employees or applicants; • Deters habitual users who would otherwise apply because other companies are testing; • Qualify for Federal contracts by being a ‘certified clean workplace’; • Appeases shareholders’ who think drug testing is the industry norm and protects assets; • May reduce on job injuries and workplace accidents; • May reduce absenteeism and/or increase efficiency; • Way to ‘weed out’ undesirable workers by singling out for testing; • May reduce overall group medical insurance costs; • Limits liability in event of accident of illegal behavior.

Notable reasons for companies not to test include:

• Expensive to test all applicants (the higher the quality the test, the more expensive); • Lose out on creative and ‘libertarian-minded’ workers who use soft drugs casually; • Doesn’t eliminate alcohol use/abuse on or off the job (most abused drug in the

workplace); • Doesn’t address tobacco use (largest drain on medical insurance costs); • May create contentious relationship with workers if the policy is non-reciprocal or

penalized differently compared with managers; • False sense of security (workplace efficiency and safety not necessarily reduced); • Risk of unlawful dismissal lawsuits – even when settled, may be expensive and distracting

to fight.

– 12 – © Dave Olson 2004-5, Privacy Issues in Workplace Drug Testing

Any company deciding to institute a drug testing policy should establish a specific policy reflecting the goals of the individual company’s program and prepare contingencies for positive tests and challenges.

In brief, the policy should address:

1) 2) 3) 4) 5) 6) 7) 8)

9) 10)

Are the workplace safety reasons compelling enough to warrant testing? Are there collective bargaining agreement related issues with union workers? Who will be tested and under what circumstances? How does the company change the policy or make exceptions or exemptions (if any)? What substances will be tested for and what are the reasons for testing for each? Who will administrate the program and who will supervise the program administrator? What lab will perform the tests and what are their accreditations and exact procedures? What processes will be triggered in the event of a “positive” test? (i.e.: second test with split sample to a different lab; suspension with/out pay; counseling/treatment option) What are the employee grievance and dispute resolution procedures? Who will counsel the company in the event of a challenge or legal proceeding?

In general, situations in which drug tests are administered can be divided into three categories: Pre-employment, Random on-going and Incident (on demand) testing.

Pre-Employment Testing

While drug testing is (at least to some degree) intrusive to one’s privacy, most job seekers are resigned to offering bodily fluids and agree to the testing for personal chemicals in the hopes of employment but without any guarantee of wage compensation.

Because (as mentioned earlier) hiring an employee is an “at-will” decision by an employer, companies may obligate most any kind of testing by voluntary job applicants. Since a majority of employers require pre-employment drug screening, prudent workers must understand the ramifications and processes of testing.

Besides the physical intrusion of being watched as you pee, the applicant’s employment chances are also dependent on somewhat faulty science. Because of the expense of drug tests, pre-employment tests tend to be of a lower quality and more susceptible to false positives. This could result in bad news for someone who unwittingly uses a legal product, which is an indicator of illegal drug use.

– 13 – © Dave Olson 2004-5, Privacy Issues in Workplace Drug Testing

A responsible (and ethical) company choosing to test applicants should advertise the policy to prospective employees, including details of the test and results of a ‘dirty’ test.

The applicant, in most cases, does not receive the results of the test, as the employer owns the results of the employee’s chemistry. However, with these results, and the applicant’s blanket approval, the employer can find out all manner of information about a potential employee.

Aside from totally abstaining from any illegal drug use and/or abstaining long enough for any trace of illegal drugs to leave the body system, applicants who do not wish to submit to a pre- employment drug screening test have a scant few options, though none well-suited to securing employment.

1) Choose not to do the test and take their labor elsewhere; 2) Choose to not test and suggest working as a freelance or contractor.

Option two is increasingly common, particularly in the high-tech industry where capable programmers and specialized technicians are increasing valuable and such employees are generally not in a position to affect co-workers’ safety. Two recent examples using this approach suggest there are ways to protect one’s privacy while successfully gaining work.

In both cases, after successfully completing the application and interview process, the applicants were offered jobs, one as an Internet technician for a telecommunications company,xxiii and another with an international microchip manufacturer.xxiv The employment offers were contingent on a passing a urine analysis drug test. In both cases, the applicants declined the test at the risk of losing the job offer because they recreationally used cannabis.

As for resolution, the microchip manufacturer offered the applicant the same work but to be performed as a contract worker (incidentally at a higher hourly rate and with more independence).

In the instance of the Telecommunications Company, the applicant spoke honestly with the employer and told that he smoked marijuana and he would not smoke at work. The employer was understanding and arranged for the applicant to work through a third-party temporary- staffing agency in order to circumvent their blanket policy of screening all new hires.

Both employees are still working under these auspices however this scenario is not ultimately desirable in all situations since employee may not enjoy the same insurance coverage and other benefits as drug test compliant employees.

– 14 – © Dave Olson 2004-5, Privacy Issues in Workplace Drug Testing

Random Testing Employers may conduct random testing with minimal recourse with established policy. Such a policy should outlines the terms of randomness including who is included in the ‘testing pool’. A random drug testing policy may be a successful deterrent to drug use by employees and is commonly used to such an end. A fair program should include all employees including management to foster a cooperative attitude to the testing program. Indeed random testing forms the basis of many programs including the military, commercial transportation operators covered by the Omnibus Act and professional or amateur athletes.

Anecdotal findings show that a “modified random” program is sometimes chosen to weight the test somewhat. In this scenario, employees may know a ballpark date range in which they are likely to be tested, or in some cases, they are told weeks in advance allowing time to ‘clean up’ if needed. In a similar vein, an employee’s name may be removed from the list after being chosen once or twice over a certain period of time.

In most cases though, the employee is notified at work and instructed to proceed directly to a lab for testing. In an anecdotal situation, a professional scuba diver was radio-ed in to shore from a vessel in the harbor to take a test. He went to the test in wearing his wetsuit, which incidentally kept a concealed condom of clean urine (at an appropriate temperature) which he obtained from his girlfriend.xxv

If you choose to submit to testing and wish to pass despite use of illicit drugs, other last resort options include:

1) 2) 3)

Prepare to ‘cheat’ the test using one of many and “cross your fingers”; Declare use of several false positive indicators to make the test inconclusive: Use the “second hand smoke” or “unwitting ingestion” defense.

Incident-based Testing Employer’s drug testing policy may request a test after an accident or based on ‘suspicious activity’ but test are the most legally volatile with the greatest risk of repercussions to both sides. To prevent costly civil lawsuits, must balance employee’s reasonable expectation of privacy vs. compelling safety reasons. Additionally, such tests are often based subjective observations and/or unknown accusers who may have a personal agenda for implicating someone for testing. With this in mind, tests requested due to specific incidents should be approached with extreme care.

– 15 – © Dave Olson 2004-5, Privacy Issues in Workplace Drug Testing

First, the employee should carefully the company’s review policy to see if the incident qualifies under the guidelines. Document all events surrounding the incident for the record and determine if there is a reasonable remedy in the established policy.

Second, if ‘dirty’ test results may result in significant punitive measures (i.e.: loss of job, negligence lawsuit), the employee should consult an attorney or union representative for advice and advocacy. Competent advice will ensure full knowledge of the possible ramifications from any test outcome allowing for clear decision making.

Third, if the company’s chosen lab’s procedures are unclear, or the lab offers any reason to doubt their strident professionalism, the employee should request either a split sample to be tested elsewhere or purchase their own test at another lab facility. This will allow the employee to mount a more strident defense in the face of faulty lab work.

An example of an incident based testing occurred when an Internet marketing executive was summoned to a Vice-president’s office for a hastily called meeting with a Human Resources director.xxvi In the meeting, the employee was informed of “accusations from the community” that the employee was smoking marijuana at a company sponsored golf tournament three months previous. Despite recent commendations for exceptional work, and five-plus years of work, the employee was instructed to take a drug test or face termination as per the company policy.

The employee took the lab paperwork and requested administrative leave to review the situation. After reviewing the company’s policy for aberrations and consulting an attorney, the employee refused to take the test. In a letter written to the Vice-president, the employee cited policy-based reasons for refusing the test.

Specifically the reasons cited were: 1) The policy included drugs and alcohol yet complimentary beer and liquor was widely

available (and encouraged) at the event; 2) The policy stated that only employees needing access to secure and sensitive areas

needed to be tested yet this employee had no such access; 3) There had been no vehicle accident or workplace injury which would have required a test,

and; 4) The results of the test would not prove or disprove the allegations of marijuana use three

months prior.

After reviewing the matter with corporate counsel, the company did not terminate the employee. However, the company but cast assumption guilt in stating, “Your refusal creates a

– 16 – © Dave Olson 2004-5, Privacy Issues in Workplace Drug Testing

concern for us that the allegation is in fact true.” The company also offered dependency counseling and reminded the employee of the employer’s right to terminate without reason at any time. The employer also saw fit to include the reprimand in the employee’s permanent record. While irritating, the contents of such a record could in no circumstances be revealed to anyone outside of the company, particularly to another future employer verifying past employment or inquiring about workplace performance.

In a similar example that resulted in a firing and subsequent lawsuit, a manager alleged an employee as appearing to be “acting unlike herself.” He said she was slumping, avoiding eye contact, slurring speech, and possibly suffering from “female problems.” She was asked if she was under the influence of alcohol or prescription drugs. When she denied such use, the manager sent her to go take a UA at a lab over an hour drive away. She refused (stating she had never sued drugs in her life) and was fired. In court, she refuted the manger’s account of events and contended an ulterior motive was involved (based on her protesting an overtime policy at a recent staff meeting). She prevailed in her suit for invasion of privacy and wrongful termination in violation of public policy as the drug test was judged to be pre-textual rather than based on objective individual suspicion.xxvii

– 17 – © Dave Olson 2004-5, Privacy Issues in Workplace Drug Testing

Moving Forward – Conclusions and Strategies

After reviewing the numerous issues and considering alternatives, I offer a few harm reduction points strategies to consider for both employees and employers.

First, drug use in general is not going to go away. Thus, accurate scientific distinctions should be made between drugs less harmful drugs from more harmful substances (i.e. marijuana vs. meth-amphetamine). Further, a scientific distinction needs to be made between “use” and “abuse.”

Second, society should be so lucky to have chronic drug abusers seeking work rather than relying on crime, and draining criminal justice systems and social welfare programs. Effectively barring them from work through testing further marginalizes addicts.

Third, honesty and disclosure is a better policy for fostering a safe and clean workplace. If employees can reveal off-work drug habits without risk of termination so such employees can be placed in non-safety sensitive jobs. Employees should be judged by observation of workplace aptitude and performance and fired if inadequate.

Fourth, if studies can show that drug users are medially more expensive, employees can be offered incentives to test clean rather than punishment for testing dirty (i.e. reduced health insurance premiums).

Fifth, when testing is desirous in a workplace, employers should exercise utmost care and study to introduce a policy which respects employees privacy by outlining terms and objectives of the test including sharing the results and offering alternative solutions besides firing such as counseling, treatment and reassignment.

– 18 – © Dave Olson 2004-5, Privacy Issues in Workplace Drug Testing

Endnotes

i “Lawsuit Claims Shy Bladder Got Man Fired” Associated Press. Cited from CNN.com May 20, 2004. ii “Understanding the Laws of Drug Testing” Jane Howard-Martin / USA Today 12/19/02, Referenced from

http://usatoday.com on 4/20/2004. iii “Keeping it Legal is the Key to Success” – Buddy T. from About.com Alcoholism and Substance Abuse

section.

iv U.S. v. Davis, 1973 Cited from “Drug Testing at Work: A guide for Employers and Employees” Beverly Potter and J. Sebastian Orfali, 1990.

v “A Look At The Historical Legal Basis For Urine Testing” Paul Armentano, Donna Shea, 3/19/03. Referenced from National Organization Reform Marijuana Laws www.norml.org 4/20/04.

vi U.S. National Archives & Records Administration – “Executive Order 12564 – Drug-free Federal Workplace” Ronald Reagan Sept. 15, 1996. Cited from www.arhives.gov.

vii “Section D – Drug Free Workplace Act of 1988” Laws of 100th Congress – 2nd Session, Nov. 18 1988. viii “DATIA’s Stamp of Approval: Top Ten Reasons to Seek Certification” Drug and Alcohol Testing Industry

Association website. www.datia.org. ix “Urine – or You’re Out” Jacob Sullum 11/02, Reason online http://reason.com/0211/fe.js.urine.shtml

4/20/2004. x “Workplace Drug Testing” ACLU brochure in Privacy in America series.

xi “Keeping it Legal is the Key to Success” – Buddy T. from About.com, Alcoholism and Substance Abuse section.

xii “Lawsuit Claims Shy Bladder Got Man Fired” Associated Press. Cited from CNN.com May 20, 2004.

xiii “Lawsuit Claims Shy Bladder Got Man Fired” Associated Press. Linda Fairbanks, spokesperson for “Caterpillar” cited from CNN.com May 20, 2004.

xiv Health and Human Services department data from fiscal 1993-98. Cited from “Government Employees Protest Drug Testing Policy” by Ellen Nakashima, The Detroit News, June 2, 2001.

xv Robert Stephenson, Director of the Division on Workplace Programs, Health and Human Services’ Center for Substance Abuse Prevention. Cited from “Government Employees Protest Drug Testing Policy” by Ellen Nakashima, The Detroit News, June 2, 2001.

xvi “Drug Testing at Work: A guide for Employers and Employees” Beverly Potter and J. Sebastian Orfali, 1990.

xvii “Urine – or You’re Out” Jacob Sullum 11/02, Reason online http://reason.com/0211/fe.js.urine.shtml referenced 4/20/2004.

xviii “Your Analysis is Faulty (How to lie with drug statistics)” John Horgan, New Republic 4/2/90. Referenced from The National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws (NORML) www.norml.org 4/20/04.

xix “Your Analysis is Faulty (How to lie with drug statistics)” John Horgan, New Republic 4/2/90. Referenced from The National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws (NORML) www.norml.org 4/20/04.

xx “Feds To Overhaul Employee Drug Testing Standards” News article from NORML.org, 1/15/2004. xxi “Policy Paper on Workplace Drug Testing” by the Marijuana Reform Party of New York, 2/7/03.

– 19 – © Dave Olson 2004-5, Privacy Issues in Workplace Drug Testing

xxii “Dealing With Urinalysis on Short Notice” California NORML Publication; updated 03/97, Referenced from NORML www.norml.org 4/20/04.

xxiii Dave Olson personal experience regarding David T. in Olympia, WA USA 2004.

xxiv Dave Olson personal experience regarding Keith Y. in Olympia, WA USA 2004.

xxv Dave Olson personal experience regarding Eugene M. in Guam, Micronesia USA 1994.

xxvi Dave Olson personal experience and letters regarding self in Olympia, WA and Advanced TelCom Group of Santa Rosa CA in 2000. Thanks to Attorney Ken Friedman of Tacoma, WA.

xxvii “Employee wins for firing after refusing drug test” 7/1997 Article from www.FairMeasures.com, referenced on April 20, 2004.

Other Bibliographical notes

• • • •

Advertisements for commercial drug testing products and products designed to thwart drug tests Courttv.com, Legal Café Q&A on Employee privacy rights Drug-free workplace manifest from www.ncsu.edu Various company’s drug testing policies

– 20 – © Dave Olson 2004-5, Privacy Issues in Workplace Drug Testing


Ian Mulgrew of the Vancouver Sun writes about the Emerging Medical Cannabis Economy

This is simply too important of an article to not spread around. Ian Mulgrew of the Vancouver Sun is the only MSM journalist in Vancouver who really speaks out sensibly and professionally about the pragmatic economics and realistic public policy options about cannabis in BC and Canada.

Thanks Ian for excellent work (PS Would you like to be a guest on a Choogle on podcast?)

Copied from the Vancouver Sun article: A bright green spot in the economy

A bright green spot in the economy

With courts striking down the government’s monopoly on supplying medical marijuana, private growers are clamouring to capitalize on pot’s commercial potential

Ian Mulgrew
Vancouver Sun

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Photo: Various types of marijuana are offered by former NDP candidate Dana Larsen at his marijuana dispensary on East Hastings Street. He says the medical pot market is about to expand.CREDIT: Bill Keay, Vancouver Sun “Various types of marijuana are offered by former NDP candidate Dana Larsen at his marijuana dispensary on East Hastings Street. He says the medical pot market is about to expand.”

DUNCAN – Eric Nash can barely contain his excitement waiting to hear from Health Canada whether he can start growing marijuana for 250 patients.

That would be just the start. There are tens of thousands more who are ailing across the country clamouring for his organic B.C. bud.

“There is a great opportunity here for the government to collect significant tax revenue currently being lost to the street market,” Nash, one of the best-known legal cannabis producers, enthused.

“With the current global financial crisis, this court ruling is certainly a bright light in dark economic times. We’re just waiting for clarification. I figure our production would increase significantly from several pounds to 150 pounds or more immediately.”

Now that the Federal Court of Appeal has struck down the government’s monopoly on supplying medical marijuana, Nash believes commercial agricultural production of pot is around the corner and the sky’s the limit.

His local company, Island Harvest, has cleared the industrial security regulatory hurdles so the company meets the standards set by Ottawa to grow the much-demonized plant.

“Our vision is to have a sustainable commercial agriculture operation,” he said. “There’s no reason we can’t achieve that. Look at the number of compassion clubs, look at the number of people using marijuana to relieve a headache or pre-menstrual cramps!”

More and more research is supporting previous anecdotal evidence that cannabis may have a wide range of therapeutic uses from the treatment of Alzheimer’s, depression, glaucoma, epilepsy and cancer to HIV/AIDS, hepatitis and ADD/ADHD. Its most ardent promoters say cannabis may be an addition to the modern pharmacopeia that rivals Aspirin in the breadth of its applications.

It doesn’t take a genius to realize the potential profits are staggering.

Until now, the government’s poorly administered medical program has artificially depressed that market by making it difficult for patients to qualify, supplied what many consider poor-quality marijuana and imposed an arbitrary restriction on qualified licensed growers to supplying only two patients.

Doctors, too, have exacerbated the situation with their reluctance to prescribe marijuana, claiming they have no guide on dosage or the usual pharmaceutical medical studies to rely on. That is changing, slowly.

Nash explained there have been three relatively recent, serious analyses of the medical marijuana market, which give an idea of its scope and potential.

The Canadian Medical Association Journal did a survey in 2000 and estimated the number of self-medicating marijuana patients to be 1.9 per cent of the population; a Price Waterhouse report prepared for Health Canada two years later concluded it was more like four per cent of the population, and a report in 2004 by a member of the federal government’s advisory committee on pot suggested the reality was closer to seven per cent.

(Health Canada, after eight years, has issued roughly 2,500 exemption permits to needy patients.)

Regardless, Nash said, based on the four-per-cent model, that puts sales at more than $400 million annually.

More optimistic projections say the medical market, including ancillary products such as vaporizers and paraphernalia, could be as high as $20 billion.

Add it up: The government sells maybe $1 million a year worth of the pot produced in a Manitoba mine, and compassion clubs across the country sell about $10 million worth of cannabis products.

By far the vast majority of patients who need marijuana as a medicine continue to buy their drugs from the black market. It’s a crazy situation: imagine if diabetics had to go to a corner dealer to score insulin.

That’s one of the fundamental reasons behind the court ruling Oct. 27: the medical marijuana program set up by Ottawa at the turn of the millennium isn’t working.

The government adopted the Medical Marijuana Access Regulations (MMAR) and accompanying bureaucracy in 2001. It has modified it since then in the face of judicial warnings that it was constitutionally inadequate, but it still can’t pass muster.

The courts find that offensive.

This new judgment heralds a tectonic shift in the country’s medical-marijuana regulatory regime and perhaps even the drug laws. It may even invalidate the cannabis prohibition.

Two B.C. Supreme Court justices sitting on separate cases (one about simple possession, the other production and trafficking) are currently seized with that question.

If they agree that because a section of medical program is unconstitutional the criminal law cannot be enforced, it would also mark the triumph of a Trojan horse strategy by cannabis activists to achieve legalization by expanding medical access.

Just as liquor was once obtained via prescription, cannabis could be regulated in a similar fashion, obviating the need for a criminal prohibition.

No matter how you look at it, the federal court decision promises an economic boon immediately for the hundreds of legal cannabis producers and increased opportunity for many others.

Nash said it was good news for both the consumer and producer.

The former government communications worker and his partner, Wendy Little, have been growing since 2002 and proselytizing longer than that. Their book Sell Marijuana Legally is a huge hit; they created an online users’ group for patients and growers, and they teach courses.

But medical growers across the country have been restricted, a policy that results in a huge gift of revenue to organized crime.

B.C. BUD’S STAGGERING NUMBERS

Stephen Easton, an economist at Simon Fraser University and with the Fraser Institute, has done the most respected work on the size of the domestic pot industry.

He sat down earlier this year in Denny’s with one of B.C.’s biggest dealers and went over his numbers.

“He figured it out differently than I did, using lights and ballasts,” Easton said. “But he worked out the numbers with me and it all worked out. He told me it was very close. He was quite surprised. I was very happy about that. We had a really good talk. He was really helpful for me.”

Since Easton’s original estimates, the domestic marijuana market has undergone some changes, but nothing cataclysmic.

“The fluctuations in the dollar are the main economic factor,” he said. “It has gone up and down and that pushes these guys.”

For most of the last few years, the most significant factor has been the various improvements in border security triggered by the 9/11 terrorist strikes.

In the 1990s and even throughout the early part of this decade, tons and tons of Canadian marijuana flooded into the U.S. market carried by anyone with moxy and a decent plan.

People were backpacking across with as much weed as they could carry in the Interior, or kayaking across with a stash of bud worth as much as emeralds.

Between 1990 and 2000, the Canadian pot market doubled in size fuelled primarily by the increased hydroponic production of B.C. bud.

Nationally, we apparently spent $1.8 billion toking up — just shy of the $2.3 billion we burned on tobacco.

By 2006, when he did his calculations, Easton said the numbers indicated a provincial wholesale market of $2.2 billion. You could increase that to $7.7 billion retail if consumers paid top dollar for their bud.

That dwarfed any other B.C. agricultural product.

The result on the street was easy to see: a proliferation of gangs duly documented by the RCMP, as every crook plucked what Easton called “the low-hanging fruit.”

The tightening of the border has had several effects.

Not just everyone can take it across now, with underground sensors, heightened air traffic scrutiny and the deployment of the military. Smuggling now is more the purview of the very organized and the very desperate.

At the same time, U.S. authorities have charted the rise of their own domestic production as American states relaxed enforcement and sentencing — the opposite of the 1980s and 1990s when their stiff attitude drove marijuana growers north.

In California alone, Berkeley, Santa Barbara, Santa Cruz, Santa Monica and San Francisco all have officially told police to make marijuana offences their lowest priority.

EVOLVING PRODUCTION

Pot production in California rivals Canada’s total output.

Similar initiatives have been adopted in other states and cities such as Seattle, Denver and even Missoula, Mont.

With the north-south route to market more problematic, more B.C. bud has moved east to feed eastern appetites or find a less monitored area of the border before turning south. The Mounties have responded by increasing surveillance along the Trans-Canada on the Prairies, resulting in large seizures.

By far the biggest factor in the marijuana market in recent years, however, has been the revolution in production — the ease, predictability and most importantly the portability that has come with advances in indoor cultivation that mean great weed can be grown anywhere.

The RCMP have been reporting huge busts in Eastern Canada as production has sprouted in the Maritimes and Ontario, reducing their appetite for West Coast pot.

In Ontario, whose provincial production is said to have surpassed B.C.’s, authorities have uncovered two separate operations each capable of producing $100 million worth of cannabis a year.

B.C. bud ruled in the 1990s when the underground marijuana trade was responsible for keeping afloat many small communities buffeted by resource-market gales.

Our pot even had cachet even up until four or five years ago but these days, be you in Charlottetown or Joe Batt’s Arm, Nfld., you can easily obtain good seeds and fail-safe equipment and within a few months be producing marijuana to rival B.C.’s best.

Nevertheless, Easton explained, when you are looking at a commodity and domestic production, it’s all about the money.

The rise of the dollar in recent years worked against growers and exporters, but its recent fall provides an upward fillip.

“I imagine with all the market turmoil the domestic marijuana industry will pick up a bit,” Easton said. “it’s just had a 15-to-20-per-cent bump in two months.”

Some estimates in the 1990s suggested as much as 50 cents of every dollar generated in some Kootenay towns could be traced directly to pot.

With the international financial tempest wreaking havoc again with commodity prices, B.C. bud may yet help ride out the storm but probably not to the same extent.

“We’ll just have to watch housing prices in Nelson,” Easton laughed.

MEXICO CONSIDERING LEGALIZATION

Sitting in Kitsilano eating breakfast before meeting the city’s police board, former Drug Enforcement Administration agent Celerino Castillo III nodded his head furiously.

“Yes, yes, it’s all about the money,” he said. “The money, it’s all so corrupt.”

Castillo spent 12 years in the USDA infiltrating Manhattan drug rings, destroying jungle cocaine labs and training anti-narcotics agents. The climax of his career was pulling the curtain back on drug-smuggling by the Nicaraguan Contras with links to Lt.-Col. Oliver North and the CIA.

From the Amazon to the slums of Mexico City to the ghettos of America, Castillo has had a front-row seat on the western hemisphere’s drug world and come to the conclusion it’s time to abandon our current approach.

Mexico is again considering legalization because of the violence and social upheaval caused by illicit drug trafficking, and Canada should be headed down the same path, he says. So should South America and, of course, the U.S.

The money is too corrosive.

“The corruption is everywhere — every month we arrest a law enforcement official, every month,” he insisted, “whether it’s a border patrol agent or a customs agent or a DEA agent or an FBI agent. We arrest a law enforcement officer once a month, It’s huge. The amount of money is just so big. ‘I have a mortgage to pay, I have to send my kids to college.’ That’s always the excuse.”

He shakes his head.

He explained that in his state, drug couriers once arrived with suitcases of cash to deposit in local banks: “Now they buy the banks. Especially now with this upheaval. Who else has the ready cash?”

He laughed.

“But that’s actually how they’re money-laundering today — they buy a bank,” Castillo added. “There’s no way we can keep up.”

In retirement, Castillo has become a featured speaker for Law Enforcement Against Prohibition, an association of former police, corrections and judicial officers who want to change drug policy.

“There’s more production, more product and more of everything than there ever was. The war on drugs doesn’t work,” he said.

“All I’m hoping for is people to start to listen and educate themselves about what’s going on in the world,” he said. “I know first-hand. I’ve seen it from an agent’s point of view.

“It’s affecting and destroying a lot of families. For 40 years we’ve been trying this John Wayne approach and it’s not working. The bottom line: There are a lot more drugs today than we had 40 years ago.”

‘THESE ARE THE DEALING TABLES’

Dana Larsen ushers me into his new marijuana dispensary in the 800 block of East Hastings Street.

The former NDP candidate, who stepped down during the federal election when his recreational drug use was publicized, has renovated the run-down storefront and is promoting a new compassion club.

Like Nash, he thinks the medical pot market is about to expand exponentially and legally.

“There’s no smoking in here,” he said as he showed me around the spartan office. “But there’s a vapour lounge two doors down in the Seed Bank where you can light up after you leave.”

There is a modest reception area and a large back room. It’s clean but unfinished.

“These are the dealing tables,” he said, pointing to a handful of folding tables separated by office screens to provide a measure of privacy.

He laughed.

“I guess I should call them dispensing tables.”

Larsen, who used to be the leader of the B.C. Marijuana Party and Prince of Pot Marc Emery’s lieutenant, thinks the time has come to move into the medical field.

“I think there’s enough of a market in town to support another dispensary,” Larsen said.

“There are more than enough patients who need reliable, quality cannabis products than the current two clubs in the city provide.”

His menu of cannabis products included six strains of dried marijuana, four kinds of hash, two pot products in capsules and double-strength bon-bons — cannabis-infused organic chocolates.

The pot ranged in price from $7.50 a gram for Pine Cross up to $8 a gram for Sweet Tooth; pressed Kif (soft hash made with a sieve) went for $8 a gram; and very potent Bubblehash, which was extracted using water and ice rather than a sieve, went for $25 a gram.

In Oakland, Calif., the private dispensaries that support the state’s medical marijuana program are said to be generating revenues in excess of $70 million a year.

MEDICAL MARIJUANA COULD HELP THE SICK

Michelle Rainey is one of roughly 2,500 Canadians with a licence to possess and use marijuana. She’s also a celebrity in the medical marijuana world and on YouTube.

Rainey has Crohn’s disease and finds her home-grown pot an effective replacement for her previous expensive regimen of pharmaceutical drugs.

She believes the country’s health-care system could save a fortune if there was a working medical marijuana program, and those who could benefit from cannabis could easily shift away from other medications.

The roughly 110,000 Canadians suffering from Crohn’s disease and the 90,000 living with ulcerative colitis, for example, are estimated to spend $162 million a year for prescription drugs.

Many of those people are already benefiting from marijuana, Rainey said, but many, many more could be.

Consider too that many battling cancer and HIV/AIDS find edible cannabis products work to stimulate the appetite, but they’ve got to buy them on the street.

“We have a huge problem with physicians being apprehensive about signing for patients even though the proof is there,” Rainey said.

“Our seniors, for instance, are spending their pensions on big pharma only to end up with more aches and pains when all they may need is a puff or a brownie!”

Rainey has facilitated more than 70 exemptions for local patients, 30 suffering from Crohn’s: “I receive dozens of e-mails from people suffering every day from all over the world who have discovered cannabis alleviates pain and nausea. The government should not be preventing people from getting access to an effective medicine.”

The courts agree.

In its decision, the Federal Court of Appeal did more than simply hand Ottawa a legal loss. It said the government had been knowingly dragging its heels since at least 2003.

As a result, lawyer Kirk Tousaw told B.C. Supreme Court that this decision renders the criminal law invalid based on that history of jurisprudence, which ties enforceability of the criminal law to the existence of a constitutionally adequate medical access scheme.

He said the judgments in Ontario courts and now the federal court mean the state of the law is unclear and therefore criminal sanctions cannot be imposed.

In this latest case — called Sfetkopoulos et al v. Attorney General of Canada — some 27 patients with exemptions to possess marijuana for medicinal use applied to Health Canada for authorization to designate Carasel Harvest Supply Corporation as their marijuana producer.

Health Canada refused, saying that violated the regulations that restricted growers to supplying only two patients at a time.

But the Federal Court Trial Division agreed with the patients and declared section 41 (b.1) of the MMAR was contrary to s. 7 of the Charter because it threatened their liberty and security of the person by preventing them from choosing their marijuana producer.

The judge accepted that sick people should have access to marijuana for the treatment of serious medical conditions and they should not be forced to risk imprisonment to buy their medication on the black market.

He interpreted the constitutional guarantee of security of person rights to include access to medication without undue state interference.

Ottawa appealed and lost.

COURT REBUKES GOVERNMENT

The appeal court agreed with the trial judge — the medical marijuana scheme was constitutionally deficient — and rebuked the government.

The three judges said the Crown had brought forward a case dismissed by the Ontario Court of Appeal in 2003, that nothing had changed and the marijuana access regulations remained flawed.

In the unanimous 2003 decision, the justices similarly complained about Ottawa’s failure to deal properly with this issue.

In their terse three-page decision a fortnight ago, the justices refused to suspend the impact of their ruling to give the government time to amend the regulations.

Health Canada spokesman Phillipe Laroche said the department was still studying the ruling and had not decided on its response.

Now, Tousaw has argued that those charged or convicted while the medical marijuana access scheme was deemed unconstitutional should have their convictions overturned or their charges stayed. That’s thousands of Canadians.

In particular, Tousaw says Ryan Poelzer should have his conviction overturned.

Poelzer was charged May 18, 2007 and there is no disagreement about the facts. He was smoking a joint on a B.C. Ferry as it pulled into Langdale and that offended an off-duty cop who called the RCMP. As he stepped off the ferry, Poelzer was arrested and in his backpack police found 78.3 grams of marijuana, 8.6 grams of hash, and assorted paraphernalia and pro-drug literature.

In spite of Tousaw’s argument that the cannabis prohibition was invalid, or alternatively that the status of the prohibition is so confused that prosecution constituted an abuse of process, the provincial court judge in the case decided B.C. jurisprudence had declared the medical marijuana scheme valid and therefore the criminal law was fine and Poelzer in clear violation of it.

But Tousaw says the B.C. precedents are wrong and fly in the face of this latest ruling.

The Crown disagrees.

Federal lawyer Peter Eccles said the MMAR requirements are reasonable given the legitimate societal interest in controlling the distribution of a “potentially harmful drug.”

“They ensure only those with a bona fide medical need for marijuana, verified by appropriate medical declaration, obtain legal access,” Eccles said. “Mr. Poelzer is not such an individual.”

Perhaps.

Two B.C. justices will render their opinions soon on whether there actually is a criminal marijuana law in force at the moment or whether de facto legalization has occurred because the medical access scheme is unconstitutional.

Market issues ‘need to be addressed’

The question is how will Ottawa respond to the federal court decision.

Since the impugned marijuana access scheme is a product of regulation rather than statute, the government can quickly promulgate new rules.

“They could make cosmetic regulatory changes,” Nash acknowledged, “which would force another court challenge. But I think the judges are pretty fed up with them doing that.”

And for good reason — sick people should not have to deal with the black market.

Nash said it’s time to get medical marijuana out of the courts, properly regulated and controlled.

“It comes down to consumer choice,” Nash said. “We have people across Canada who want our organic product. Patients want different price ranges, they want different strains, they want different hybrids. There are market issues here that need to be addressed. When you go to a pharmacy do you want to be told you can only have Bayer?

“This is about patients’ rights and a legitimate need.”

imulgrew@vancouversun.co

Note:

Ian Mulgrew is the Vancouver Sun’s legal affairs columnist and the author of several non-fiction books, including Bud Inc.: Inside Canada’s Marijuana Industry (Random House, 2005).

See also:

Choogle on podcast interview with Dana Larsen: Party at the Vancouver Seed Bank – Choogle on #59

70 years of failed cannabis prohibition in USA

Hemp farmers

Thanks to Hemp Ed in Pe Ell who reminds us that everyone should take note of the significance of Oct. 2nd.

Indeed, October 2, 2006 was the dubious anniversary of 70 years hassle when unemployed Colorado laborer Samuel R. Caldwell was arrested for selling two marijuana cigarettes to Moses Baca and became the first federal marijuana arrest. For his crime, he was sentenced to four years of hard labor at Leavenworth Penitentiary, plus a $1,000 fine.

Hemp Ed says, “This was a bad day for America, and has lead to the arrest and incarceration of 10 of millions of Americans, and opened the door to far more reaching invasive laws into all our freedoms. When will the madness end?”

Not anytime soon it seems as 2006 set a new high (heh) for cannabis arrests. NORML kicks down some opinion and factoids in a stylish chart documenting the debacle.

Allen St. Pierre, NORML Executive Director {give Mr. St Pierre a ring at (202) 483-5500} concluded in NORML’s report: “Crimes of Indiscretion: Marijuana Arrests in the United States,” that:

“Enforcing marijuana prohibition costs taxpayers between $10 billion and $12 billion annually and has led to the arrest of nearly 20 million Americans. Nevertheless, some 94 million Americans acknowledge having used marijuana during their lives. It makes no sense to continue to treat nearly half of all Americans as criminals for their use of a substance that poses no greater – and arguably far fewer – health risks than alcohol or tobacco. A better and more sensible solution would be to tax and regulate cannabis in a manner similar to alcohol and tobacco.”

MARIJUANA ARRESTS BY YEAR
US Marijuana Arrests 1965-2006

Producer of Marihuana tax stamp.Obligatory Wikipedia snippet from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/1937_Marihuana_Tax_Act

In the United States, the 1937 Marihuana Tax Act, Pub. 238, 75th Congress, 50 Stat. 551 (Aug. 2, 1937), was one of the cornerstone bills that led to the criminalization of cannabis. It was introduced to U.S. Congress by Harry Anslinger, then Commissioner of the Federal Bureau of Narcotics.

The act did not itself criminalize the possession or usage of cannabis, but levied a tax equaling roughly one dollar on anyone who dealt commercially in marijuana. It did, however, include penalty provisions. Violations of proper procedure could result in a fine of up to $2000 and five years’ imprisonment. The net effect was to make it too risky for anyone to deal in the substance.

 

Cosmo imparts knowledge in Business Examiner article about ISP crime

Not sure if you saw this but … a few month’s back, my colleague and co-conspirator at Zhonka! was at it again with a wise and insightful bit of commentary on the unnecessary hassle imposed on ISPs who some think should pay the role of snoop and fink. Jay’s commentary is below form his blog post Yet More Business Press from Tuesday, November 21, 2006.

Jay Stewart speaks out against ISP hassles to Washington State Attorney General Rob McKenna

This is in response to the Attorneys General of many states, including Rob McKenna of Washington State, putting out a hot-air puffery press release (read the actual letter here) on how ISPs could help catch paedophiles, which is true, if we snooped on traffic and violated the privacy of our customers. Surely, there is a better way to protect children than turning our country into a “Big Brother” police state, where ISPs and telephone companies keep records of activity and data forever, so that the “authorities” can sift through it long after it would have protected any children. Law enforcement needs to start doing it’s job, and stop hassling poor (and brown) people. Anyway, I think these are some of my best quotes ever published in the print media, and am proud to been able to speak out against this kind of fishing expedition.