Drug Testing Robs Workforce of Talent and Creativity

CANNABIS CULTURE – In Hillary Clinton’s farewell speech as Secretary of State last week, she said, “We need a new architecture for this new world, more Frank Gehry than formal Greek.”

Clinton was referring to dealing with the complexities of working with NATO, the United Nations, and world powers, and used for her example the Venice, California-based architect Frank Gehry. Gehry molded a unique style of laid-back architecture that used materials like chain-link fence in the context of the urban sprawl of LA, and is now the world-class architect of the Walt Disney Concert Hall in downtown Los Angeles and the forthcoming Dwight D. Eisenhower memorial.

Someone who worked with Gehry in the 1980s reported him “coming out of rooms with clouds of [marijuana]smoke behind him.” It wouldn’t be too surprising. Even Meghan McCain says pot smoking is everywhere in LA.

The well-entrenched drug testing industry is touting their services as the means of achieving a safe and productive workforce, even in the wake of marijuana smokers winning their rights back in Colorado and Washington.

I beg to differ.

First of all, drug testing has never been scientifically shown to be safe or effective at improving workplace safety or productivity, and studies indicate that the great majority of drug-positive workers are just as reliable as others. Medically, the consensus of expert opinion is that drug tests are an inherently unreliable indicator of drug impairment. Dr. George Lundberg of the American Medical Association has called them “Chemical McCarthyism.”

Second, by pre-screening away marijuana smokers, we’re weeding out (so to speak) some of our most creative and, I would argue, productive employees. If you doubt that marijuana smokers have contributed to our society, see VeryImportantPotheads.com. In the case of someone using marijuana for medical purposes, it’s downright discrimination to deny them employment for using what a doctor has legally recommended under state law.

Silicon Valley, the brainchild of entrepreneurs like Steve Jobs and Bill Gates (who both admittedly smoked pot in their youth), notoriously does not drug test its employees, knowing they’d lose much of their talent that way. Yet the region is responsible for much of California’s economic productivity, in one of the few non-military industries the US has. Pot-friendly Hollywood is another shining example of an industry that exports instead of imports to the US, like most of our consumables.

It’s not surprising that Clinton would mention a possible pot smoker, since quite likely she was one herself and the president she worked for certainly was. Would either have benefited from a world that imprisoned or discriminated against them for their youthful or weekend indulgences? I think not.

Henry Ford’s method of sending investigators into his workers’ homes to observe their drinking habits seems outrageous today, yet employers are basically doing the same thing by demanding its workers pee in a cup on Monday to find out what they did on Friday night. Is it really their business?

There is an alternative called impairment testing that has been shown to be more effective than drug testing at assuring workers’ safety. But chemical tests are entrenched, in our political process, and with businesses and insurance companies. The more forward-thinking ideas are, so far, crushed under the Greek architecture of the old days.

Of Gehry, Clinton said, “Some of his work at first might appear haphazard, but in fact, it’s highly intentional and sophisticated. Where once a few strong columns could hold up the weight of the world, today we need a dynamic mix of materials and structures.” We also need a dynamic and varied work force, one that might even look haphazard from the outside, to meet the challenges of today’s world.

Carl Sagan, one of the many productive members of society who enjoyed marijuana, said, “The illegality of cannabis is outrageous, an impediment to full utilization of a drug which helps produce the serenity and insight, sensitivity and fellowship so desperately needed in this increasingly mad and dangerous world.”

It won’t do us much good to end the injustice of marijuana prohibition if only the unemployed can exercise their right to use it. And those companies who exercise drug testing have only a piss-poor workforce.

Ellen Komp is Deputy Director of California NORML and a regular contributor to Cannabis Culture. She manages the website VeryImportantPotheads.com and blogs at Tokin Woman.



  1. Anonymous on


    It’s funny no one realizes that these drug tests (How they are performed today in America) are costing us money.

    The drug testing companies lobby and thus the insurance companies have to pass this bill onto the customer.

    Think about, why test for what people did 30 to 90 days ago when we have the technology to test if they are impaired at the spot (during work or after an accident).

    In Canada our supreme court couldn’t be bought so easily.

    Very sad america.

  2. gutrod on

    It’s high time the people take countrywide protests into the street. Stand up and be counted. Mass protests are the only way that the government would see the light and submit to the very people who sign their paychecks. What next. It is amazing that people get paid big taxpayers money to dream up crap like this.

  3. Anonymous on

    The Jews from California almost just murdered Danny g with heavy heavy heavy amounts of radiation in his bed. He’s barely alive. This is what Jews from California do to moral people. They torture them to the brink of death. The Jews are to blame along with there technologies and weapons of mass destruction.

  4. Anonymous on

    much like the first poster said; this is an issue of liberty and common sense.

    simple as that.

    why test for what someone did 30 to 90 days ago. test during work and or accidents for impairment.

  5. Anonymouse on

    When Hillary was the first lady she pissed off a lot of people in congress, by getting involved in politics and not being the submissive wife of the president. Politics is a messy occupation if done right. In other words if your not pissing people off then you may not be doing enough.

    If Hillary keeps making reference to a more anti-autocratic social construct then I will throw my support to her if she runs for president in 2016. I’d really enjoy watching her stir things up in the American congress, much like she did with the old little boys investigating the Benghazi incident.

    I have a feeling that Hillary’s Secretary of State position has been enlightening, for this reason I’d hate to see her retire and take all that wisdom with her.

    As far as drug testing is concerned, I won’t work for a company that drug tests its employees. Simply, it is none of their business what I choose to do on my private time. All good relationships begin with trust. Drug testing is not a trust based act. If they can’t trust me then why should I trust them.

    Cannabis sativa allows the soul to soar thus enticing the mind to follow. Creativity is a product of well being and is inhibited by restrictive environments. Creativity is the enemy of autocracy and the reason why much creativity is constrained.

    THC is the cure for neo-conservatism…

  6. Anonymous UK on

    In my experience alcohol is the worst drug for causing workers to perform at less than their best and this is often not tested for.

  7. Anonymous on

    Test by metabolites & breathalyzer.

    No one should be under the influence of any substance unless medically approved during work hours.

    HOWEVER! What you do in the privacy of your own home, while not on call and or at work falls under the sacred liberty that is bestowed upon all citizens in our social contract.

    What you may have done 90 days ago has no influence on an accident and or your state during your present work presence.

    Why can’t we just get back to following rational discourse. Why all the foolish comments and under handed approaches.

    Stop these drug testing companies lobbies that push for this to increase their profits. It is bad for the businesses (increasing insurance costs), bad for us as citizens (reducing our liberty), and bad for society (not upholding the values that we have found of inherent value).