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Press Release: Wed (10/29/08) in Albany: White House Pushes Controversial Student Drug Testing Agenda at Summit

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: October 27, 2008 CONTACT: Jennifer Kern, Drug Policy Alliance, (415) 373-7694 White House Pushes Controversial Student Drug Testing Agenda at Summit in Albany on October 29 Largest Study, Leading Health Groups Call Random, Suspicionless Drug Testing Harmful and Ineffective ALBANY - The White House Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP) is conducting a series of regional summits designed to convince local educators to begin drug testing students - randomly and without cause. This policy is unsupported by the available science and opposed by leading experts in adolescent health. The latest summit will be held in Albany on Wednesday, October 29 at the Crown Plaza Albany, State & Lodge Streets from 8:30 am -1:00pm. Studies have found that suspicionless drug testing is ineffective in deterring student drug use. The first large-scale national study on student drug testing, which was published by researchers at the University of Michigan in 2003, found no difference in rates of student drug use between schools that have drug testing programs and those that do not. A two-year randomized experimental trial published last November in the Journal of Adolescent Health concluded random drug testing targeting student athletes did not reliably reduce past month drug use and, in fact, produced attitudinal changes among students that indicate new risk factors for future substance use. "Drug testing breaks down relationships of trust," said Jennifer Kern, Youth Policy Manager for the Drug Policy Alliance. "All credible research on substance abuse prevention points to eliminating, rather than creating, sources of alienation and conflict between young people, their parents and schools." Random student drug testing is opposed by the American Academy of Pediatrics, National Education Association, the Association of Addiction Professionals, and the National Association of Social Workers, among others. These organizations believe random testing programs erect counter-productive obstacles to student participation in extracurricular activities, marginalize at-risk students and make open communication more difficult. "Our schools should stay focused on education, prevention and health, not invasive drug testing programs that have never been proven safe or effective," said Donna Lieberman, executive director of the New York Civil Liberties Union. "New York students deserve comprehensive, interactive and honest drug education with assistance and support for students whose lives have been disrupted by substance use." A December 2007 policy statement by the American Academy of Pediatrics Committee on Substance Abuse and Council of School Health reaffirmed their opposition to student drug testing, holding: "Physicians should not support drug testing in schools ... [because] it has not yet been established that drug testing does not cause harm." Making Sense of Student Drug Testing: Why Educators are Saying No, published by the Drug Policy Alliance and the American Civil Liberties Union, can be found online at www.safety1st.org.
Location: 
Albany, NY
United States

South Pacific: DEA Mass Body Search of Plane Passengers Spurs Angry Reaction in Marianas

Lawmakers and travel industry spokesmen on the island of Saipan in the Northern Mariana Islands, are furious with the DEA over an October 4 incident where the agency conducted a mass body search of passengers arriving on a charter jet from China. Tourism officials have apologized to China over the incident, the local congress has passed a resolution condemning the searches, and in the latest reverberation, the Marianas government has pulled its police from the local DEA task force.

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Northern Mariana Islands (map from 4uth.gov.ua)
The Marianas, formally known as the Commonwealth of the Northern Marianas Islands (CNMI), is a US territory situated roughly three-quarters of the way to Australia from Hawaii. The islands have a population of about 80,000 and rely heavily on tourism.

The October 4 incident occurred in the pre-dawn hours when a Shanghai Airlines charter flight arrived at Saipan International Airport. Acting on what it said was a tip about drugs on the flight, the DEA subjected 147 of 187 arriving passengers -- all Chinese nationals -- to intensive body searches. The agents forced passengers into a small room, then forced them to remove their clothing to be searched. No drugs were found, although the DEA reported it had seized some contraband plant and animal items.

Many of the passengers were outraged by their treatment and reported it to their government. They also vowed never to return to the CNMI again. That had local officials scrambling to undo the harm.

"I want to let you know that my administration is extremely displeased with the manner in which this activity was conducted," said Gov. Benigno Fitial in an October 10 letter to the tour company and hotel involved in the deal that brought the Chinese tourists to Saipan. "We did not approve of this and do not support such treatment of visitors to our islands."

That same day, Marianas Visitors Authority managing director Perry Tenorio sent a similar letter to the Chinese consulate in Los Angeles. "We hope that this regrettable and isolated incident does not alter your affection for the CNMI and its people," Tenorio said.

Late last week, still fuming over the DEA's actions and unresponsiveness, the CNMI House of Representatives passed a strongly worded resolution demanding that the US Department of Justice investigate the mass search. The resolution also called for the department to inform China that the DEA -- not local customs or immigration officials -- was responsible for the searches.

"The House of Representatives of the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands hereby calls for a full and complete investigation into the activities and the causes of those activities that led to an episode at the Francisco C. Ada Saipan International Airport that embarrassed and degraded honored guests of the Northern Mariana Islands and may have violated their civil rights," stated the resolution.

"These searches, and the abhorrent treatment of the passengers subjected to it, caused extreme embarrassment, discomfort, fear, and a feeling of perverse violation to the affected tourists and other guests of the Commonwealth," the resolution said. It also called the searches "harsh and irrational" and said they had caused irreparable harm "to the reputation of the Commonwealth and to the psyches of the victims of this demeaning episode."

And that's the watered down version. After Federal Relations Committee Chair Diego Benavente expressed concern over harsh language, the House voted to remove a provision of the resolution containing the phrase "multiple fondling of the passengers' private parts."

The fall-out continued this week. The CNMI Department of Public Safety announced Monday that it was pulling four Saipan police officers from the DEA Northern Marianas task force. That comes just days after the CNMI withdrew six other police officers and one customs officer from the task force. That withdrawal will be in effect until the DEA provides a complete explanation of the October 4 incident, government officials said.

At this point, the government of the CNMI doesn't seem to care much what impact the withdrawal will have on the DEA's work. When asked if the pull-out would hamper DEA operations, a police spokesman replied only, "That remains to be seen."

ONDCP Random Student Drug Testing Summit

There is no cost to attend the summit but, because space is limited, people are encouraged you to register as soon as possible at http://summits.csrincorporated.com or send an email to summits@csrincorporated.com or call (703) 312-5220 if you have additional questions. AGENDA 8:30 - 9:00 a.m. Registration 9:00 - 9:05 a.m. Welcome and Introductions 9:05 - 9:25 a.m. Opening Remarks 9:25 - 9:45 a.m. Presentation: Legal History/Current Legal Issues 9:45 - 10:15 a.m. Presentation: Current Drug Testing Technology 10:15 - 11:00 p.m. Presentation: Developing a Student Drug Testing Policy 11:00 - 11:15 a.m. Break 11:15 - 11:45 p.m. Presentation: Student Assistance Programs - Help When It's Needed 11:45 - 12:15 p.m. Panel: Success Stories from Local Local Programs 12:15 - 12:30 p.m. Presentation: The Student Drug Testing Institute - Support for Schools that Drug Test 12:30 - 12:50 p.m. Q&A 12:50 - 1:00 p.m. Closing Remarks
Date: 
Wed, 10/29/2008 - 9:30am - 2:00pm
Location: 
State and Dodge Street
Albany, NY 12207
United States

Wow, I almost forgot it was Drug Free Work Week

Fortunately, the drug czar remembered, which makes sense because it’s his third favorite drug war theme-week. And having burdened us with this annoying ritual, he goes on to explain unintentionally how unbelievably unimportant it is:

October 20-26th is Drug Free Work Week

Every year, the Department of Labor sponsors a Drug Free Work Week to raise awareness of the consequences of drug use on the workplace.  According to recent research this is a serious problem:

•    75 percent of the nation’s current illegal drug users are employed—and 3.1 percent say they have actually used illegal drugs before or during work hours.

That means 97% of drug users don’t go to work high. Seriously, these numbers show that the overwhelming majority of drug users have jobs and scrupulously avoid drugs on workdays. That’s not a problem, that’s awesome.

And it goes to show how completely nuts you are if you think we have to drug test everybody to keep them from spilling bong water in the copier. Even at my office – where we oppose drug testing and advocate drug legalization – we’ll still throw you the hell out if you come in drooling and screwing around. If there’s ever been a solution in search of a problem, it’s the little plastic cup that proves you smoked pot at some point in the past month.

Unfortunately, in the drug war, we always do things the hard way and that’s why the federal government would rather prosecute purveyors of prosthetic piss-test penises than admit that anyone with half a brain shouldn’t need laboratory results to identify the dumbass in the department.

Meanwhile, Joe Sixpack, the very epitome of traditional American values, is far more likely to mix business with pleasure than the average illegal drug user:
•   79 percent of the nation’s heavy alcohol users are employed—and 7.1 percent say they have actually consumed alcohol during the workday.
But nobody drug tests for that, so the workplace drug testing tyranny tinkles on, untethered by the towering absurdity of busting employees for smoking pot over the weekend, while vastly larger numbers get drunk on their lunch break with impunity. The whole thing is such a monument of stupidity and craziness, I suppose it’s fitting that the drug czar must set aside a whole week each year to bask in it.

Punk Rock Bonus: Here’s NOFX with "Go To Work Wasted"

Search and Seizure: Long Island Woman's Strip Search Suit Can Move Forward

A federal appeals court ruled October 8 that a Long Island, New York, woman's rights were violated when police strip searched her in a room with a video camera after finding a marijuana stem in the vehicle she was driving. The ruling by a three-judge panel of the US 2nd Circuit Court of Appeals reinstated the $1 million lawsuit filed three years ago by Stacey Hartline against the Village of Southampton and four of its police officers.

Hartline was driving a work vehicle owned by her construction company in 2001 when she was pulled over for lack of a rear license plate. After the arresting officer spotted a pot stem on the floorboard, he cuffed Hartline, then searched the vehicle, finding a roach and other small amounts of pot debris. Hartline was placed under arrest for marijuana possession, taken to the police station, and subjected to a strip search by a female officer in a room with a video camera while male officers allegedly watched on monitors.

Hartline was "crying hysterically" while she was forced to remove her lower garments and allow the officer to inspect her orifices, then lift up her bra and allow the officer to inspect her breasts, according to her account.

Hartline sued, alleging two violations of her Fourth Amendment right to be free from unreasonable searches and seizures. First, she argued, police had no probable cause to think she was hiding contraband, and second, the search was unconstitutional because the Village of Southampton had a policy of strip searching all female arrestees while it did not have such a policy for male arrestees.

Her civil suit was thrown out in 2006 by US District Judge Denis Hurley in Central Islip. Hurley held that police did have reason to believe she was hiding contraband and that no higher courts had dealt with such circumstances.

But in last week's opinion from the 2nd Circuit, the appeals court judges sharply disagreed with Hurley. It was irrelevant that no other court had ruled on the circumstances, the judges said, and whether police had "a reasonable suspicion that she was secreting contraband on her person" was a question to settled by a trial court, not Judge Hurley.

"Ultimately, if the facts of this case amount to reasonable suspicion, then strip-searches will become commonplace," the judges further wrote in a 15-page opinion. "Given the unique, intrusive nature of strip-searches, as well as the multitude of less invasive techniques available to officers confronted by misdemeanor offenders, that result would be unacceptable in any society that takes privacy and bodily integrity seriously."

Now, Hartline's case will go to trial. No trial date has yet been set.

Hartline told the Associated Press after the decision that she was relieved. "It's very hard to sit back and challenge a municipality," she said. "It's frightening. I've lived in this town my whole life. I love Southampton. The relief I feel is tremendous. I'm so pleased this won't happen to anyone else."

Drug Testing: Coal Miner Unions, Owners Balk at Proposed Federal Rules, But for Different Reasons

During a Tuesday hearing on its proposed drug testing rule covering more than 116,000 coal miners, the federal Mine Safety and Health Administration (MHSA) got it from both sides, with mine workers criticizing the proposed rule as unnecessary and mine owners criticizing it for not being tough enough.

Out of a US ministry industry (including oil and gas extraction) of more than 300,000 workers, nearly two-thirds are already subject to drug testing, mostly out of agreements negotiated between employers and unions. Federal law currently mandates drug testing for public safety (truck drivers, train engineers) and national security reasons. It does not mandate it for "risky" occupations.

The MHSA proposed rule would bar the use or possession of drugs or alcohol at coal and other mineral mines, would require pre-employment drug testing, and would mandate random suspicionless drug testing of workers. Workers who test positive would have to complete drug treatment before being allowed back on the job. Companies that don't already have drug testing programs in place would have one year to comply with the new rule. MHSA estimates the rule would cost the industry $16 billion the first year and $13 billion a year after that.

According to MHSA, drug and alcohol use in the mines is "a risk to miner safety" and "because mining is inherently dangerous, MHSA is proposing a standard to address this risk." But the proposed rule admittedly contains little more than anecdotal evidence, newspaper stories, and recitations of national substance abuse estimates to make its case that drug and alcohol abuse is a serious problem in the mines or that drug testing is the best way to address it."

The mines are currently governed by an MHSA regulation that already prohibits the use or possession of alcohol or drugs at the work site and says succinctly that intoxicated workers are not permitted on the job. During the 30 years they have been in place, some 270 miners have been cited for violating that regulation -- not a high number in an industry of 300,000 workers -- or fewer than 10 a year. And only 10% of those came from subsurface mines.

The lack of strong evidence showing that drug testing is required in the coal mines was a point United Steelworkers official Mike Wright hit on as he told MHSA reps at Tuesday's hearing why his union opposed the proposed new rule. "MSHA has not shown that the proposed rule is necessary," he said. "In this rule, MSHA is relying on limited anecdotal and sometimes irrelevant information."

Wright also told the MHSA reps their proposed rules were unconstitutional. With federally-mandated drug testing limited to public safety and national security-related occupations, he said, MHSA had demonstrated no such link. "This proposal is unconstitutional and unnecessary. It's a distraction from real worker safety and it should be withdrawn," Wright said.

The United Mine Workers also called on MHSA to drop the proposed rule, and so did the National Mining Association, the National Stone, Sand & Gravel Association, the West Virginia Coal Association and major coal producers Arch Coal and Consol Energy. But unlike the unions, the industry wanted not less but more drug testing and fewer restrictions on its ability to fire workers who test positive. The industry called for rules that allow them to test hair, saliva, and blood for drugs, rather than limiting testing to urine samples, as the MHSA proposed rule does.

Now, after reviewing public comments on the new rule and listening to the sole public hearing it held on the proposed rules, MHSA will take several months to publish its final rule. Coal miners who like to smoke a joint while watching the Mountaineers on Saturday afternoons better be on the alert.

Press Release: Government's Drug War Test Kits Give False Positives on Organic and Natural Products

For decades law enforcement agencies including local police, DEA and US Customs have used what is known as "presumptive field drug-test" kits to confirm that suspected materials are illegal drugs. The tests, which use powerful acids to react with suspected substances, change color to indicate the presence or absence of drugs. However, there is now conclusive evidence the field drug tests falsely indicate the presence of drugs when used on numerous natural products such as soap, soy milk, essential oils and chocolate. Developed over 60 years ago, these tests are made by the giant homeland security company Armor Holdings, a subsidiary of BAE Systems. At a cost of less than five dollars each, the field drug tests can be found in nearly every police car, border checkpoint, jail and in most schools.

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NarcoPouch Squad Pack Kit, the Armor Holdings product responsible for the Don Bolles false positive
In August and September of this year, Canadians Ron Obadia and Nadine Artemis, founders of Living Libations who make raw organic chocolate and natural personal care products, were arrested while trying to cross the US border, after a false-positive drug test on their chocolate products. Their eight month old son was taken from them, and US border agents interrogated them separately and attempted to coerce confessions, even telling them their partner had confessed to smuggling hash. The couple eventually was cleared of all drug charges from the August incident after confirmation lab tests showed there were no drugs. But they were re-arrested in September while again trying to cross the US border for a US natural products trade show, despite high level communication and permission between their Canadian attorney and US Customs officials. Mr. Obadia now faces charges of exporting a controlled substance, where the only evidence is an NIK (Armor Holdings brand) field test for marijuana that was administered by Customs officials that falsely indicated that their raw organic chocolate in their hand luggage was hash. Mr. Obadia's attorney Mark Mahoney intends to subpoena Armor Holdings for all internal records and documents regarding false-positives, and a complete account of the incidents is on their web site.

Similar false positives have resulted in arrests over other natural products. In 2007, a false-positive for the date rape drug GHB occurred when Newport Beach (CA) police tested Dr. Bronner's peppermint soap. Based on the faulty field test, well-known musician Don Bolles was jailed for three and half days over Easter weekend. After the Bronner family helped post bail and hired an attorney, the charges were dropped when more accurate crime lab tests showed there was no GHB in their soap. Further investigation by Dr. Bronner's found that any natural soap, including brands such as Tom's of Maine and Neutrogena, will falsely test-positive for GHB using the field drug test. Dr. Bronner's is also covering Mr. Obadia and Ms. Artemis's attorney costs going forward.

"We are alarmed by the growing number of people who have been taken to jail for simply possessing organic products," says Ronnie Cummins, Executive Director of the Organic Consumers Association (OCA). "This is an attack on people who have adopted an organic natural lifestyle, whether it's the food they eat, the soap they clean with or the perfumes they use. What kind of world do we live in where nursing mothers' have their babies taken from them and are subjected to coercive interrogations to generate false confessions, over healthy organic foods like raw chocolate," says Cummins, who cofounded the 800,000 supporter strong OCA. The American Civil Liberties Union's Drug Law Reform Project is also contemplating a class action challenge to the drug war testing industry.

Medical Marijuana: Schwarzenegger Vetoes Employment Rights Bill

California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger Wednesday vetoed a bill that would have protected medical marijuana patients from being fired from their jobs for testing positive for pot on a drug test.

The bill, AB 2279, authored by marijuana-friendly Assemblyman Mark Leno (D-San Francisco), would have overturned a January California Supreme Court ruling that allowed employees to fire or otherwise punish employees who legally use medical marijuana under state law. Under the Leno bill, only people in safety-related or law enforcement positions could have been fired.

In that January ruling, the Supreme Court held that the state's Compassionate Use Act did exempt patients and caregivers from being prosecuted by the state, but was not intended to stop employers from firing workers for violating federal drug laws.

Schwarzenegger sang from the same hymnal in his veto message. "I am concerned with interference in employment decisions as they relate to marijuana use," the governor wrote. "Employment protection was not a goal of the initiative as passed by voters in 1996."

But medical marijuana supporters who spoke to the San Francisco Chronicle after the veto announcement begged to differ. "The intent of Prop. 215 was to treat marijuana like other legal pharmaceutical drugs," said Dale Gieringer, a coauthor of the ballot measure and California coordinator of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws.

Leno told the local newspaper he was not surprised by the veto, given the Chamber of Commerce's opposition to the bill. He said the court majority and the governor apparently presumed that "the voters who supported Prop. 215 in 1996 intended that only those medical marijuana patients who are unemployed could make use of (the law)."

Feature: Number of Schools Embracing Random Drug Testing on the Rise -- So is Opposition

Emboldened by a pair of US Supreme Court decisions and spurred by the Bush administration's push to expand drug testing of students, an increasing number of school districts across the country are embracing drug testing as a drug abuse prevention measure. While the Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP, the drug czar's office) and anti-drug activists applaud the trend, the resort to random drug testing of junior and senior high school students has also sparked a counter-movement that tries to persuade schools to instead embrace drug prevention strategies that do not treat students as guilty until proven innocent.

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Allie Brody
In Vernonia in 1995 and Earls in 2002, the Supreme Court okayed the random drug testing of student athletes and students involved in extracurricular activities, respectively. Beginning in 2004, the Bush administration and drug czar John Walters began a push to get schools to create drug testing programs, seeding them with millions of dollars in federal grant money.

While earlier statistics on the number of schools resorting to student drug testing are hard to come by, the National Association of School Boards told the Chronicle that year that it thought the top-end figure stood at about 5%. Federal estimates at that time, put the number of schools doing random drug testing at somewhere between 500 and 2,000, or a top-end figure of about 3.5%.

"We don't take a specific position on drug testing, but we wrote briefs in support of the districts in the Supreme Court cases," said Lisa Sawyer, senior staff attorney for the National Association of School Boards. "That's because we believe in local control. We like the idea that school districts have the ability to drug test if they choose."

But by the time the Centers for Disease Control published the results of its school survey in October 2007, it reported the number of schools with random drug testing programs was 4,200. That is about 7% of the nation's 59,000 junior and senior high schools.

The Student Drug Testing Coalition, an off-shoot of the Drug-Free Projects Coalition, which advocates for increased random drug tests of students, put the number even higher in a May 2008 report. According to the coalition, some 14% of school districts had random drug testing policies during the 2004-2005 school year.

The coalition also reported that the number of school districts resorting to random drug tests is increasing by about 100 per year, or 1% annually. That number is difficult to verify, but a Google News or similar search for "student drug testing" will show that the issue is being debated by school boards across the country every week.

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drug testing lab
"When the Bush administration started pushing for testing after the Earls decision, schools didn't know about that policy, and the administration has had some success in convincing some districts this is a good policy to try," said Jennifer Kern, youth policy manager for the Drug Policy Alliance, which, along with groups such as Students for Sensible Drug Policy (SSDP), the ACLU Drug Law Reform Project, and NORML, is leading the charge against student drug testing. "Although they have not had much success convincing the public health and educational community this is the way to go, they have been barnstorming the country, and some districts have gone for it."

Since 2004, the drug czar's office has organized student drug testing "summits" around the country to push more districts to embrace testing and to sweeten the pot by aiding them to apply for federal student drug testing grants. They had been occurring at a rate of about four a year, but this year that number has jumped to eight, with two set next month for Omaha, Nebraska, and Albany, New York.

As at past summits, the opposition will be in Omaha and Albany, said Kern. "We'll be doing what we did in the past, getting people to come out, providing materials, talking to educators, who we've found to be quite receptive to our message," she said. "Hopefully, this is the drug czar's last hurrah," she said, with an eye on the November elections.

"At past summits, most attendees were undecided about school drug testing," said SSDP executive director Kris Krane. "They wanted to hear the government's pitch and find out how to apply for grant money, but we found them generally very receptive to our points of view. We stuck to our specific concerns about drug testing, and our message was generally well-received."

Opponents of student drug testing aren't limited to reform organizations. Not surprisingly, high school students themselves and their parents form another bloc where opposition can and does emerge. Kern reported being contacted by numerous students and parents as drug testing becomes an issue in their communities.

When Allentown High School in Allentown, New Jersey, instituted a drug testing program, it did so in the face of student and parent opposition, and that opposition hasn't ended. Allie Brody, a senior at Allentown High, is taking a stand against student drug testing -- and it's costing her. Carrying a 3.96 Grade Point Average, Brody is a member of the National Honor Society. Last year, she was in the school travel club, founded the school philosophy club, and helped out on the school musical, among other extracurricular activities. This year, she can't do any of that because she refused to sign a consent form for drug testing.

"Drug testing goes very strongly against my principles. It is taking the choice about what happens to my body out of my parents' hands. That's not the school's responsibility, and I'm not willing to give it to them," she said Wednesday.

"Now I can't participate in extracurricular activities, I've been removed as vice-president of the French Honor Society, and my National Honor Society membership is in question," she said matter-of-factly. "I have to park off campus. This may even affect where I can go to college," the honor student said. "I'm making a personal statement about drug testing and I hope colleges will understand. If they don't, I don't think that's the kind of place I would want to attend anyway."

Brody and other students worked to stop the board from establishing the drug testing policy, to no avail, she said. "My friend Brendan Benedict [cofounder with Brody of Students Morally Against Drug Testing (SMART)] and I got a lot of students to come out, and my parents have been really supportive, and we've gotten a lot of support from the community. I tried to stop it by attending board meetings, but it was like the board had made up its mind before we even heard about it, and I didn't have a vote on the board."

Kern and other reformers are determined to provide whatever assistance they can to students, parents, and educators opposed to student drug testing. They have prepared a kit to prepare people attending the drug czar's summits, they have created the Safety 1st web site with alternative approaches to drug testing, and even a "Drug Testing Invades My Privacy" Facebook page. (You must log in to Facebook to view it.)

They can also point interested parties to New Mexico, where the Drug Policy Alliance has received a grant to do youth substance abuse education. The New Mexico office has just produced a new video about meth and materials for training educators.

While some of the opposition to student drug testing is moral or philosophical, opponents also cite various studies showing that drug testing has no impact on student drug use rates or even that it has a negative impact. A 2003 study headed by University of Michigan researcher Lloyd Johnston of Monitoring the Future fame put it this way:

"Drug testing still is found not to be associated with students' reported illicit drug use -- even random testing that potentially subjects the entire student body. Testing was not found to have significant association with the prevalence of drug use among the entire student body nor the prevalence of use among experienced marijuana users. Analyses of male high school athletes found that drug testing of athletes in the school was not associated with any appreciably different levels of marijuana or other illicit drug use."

On the other hand, the drug czar's student drug testing web site and the Student Drug Testing Coalition's drug testing effectiveness web page offer up additional studies that attempt to rebut or refute Johnston's and similar findings.

But it's not just about student drug testing's much-debated effectiveness; it's also about how schools view their students and vice versa, said SSDP's Krane.

"School drug testing really breaks down the trust between students and teachers, counselors, and administrators," he said. "If they do have a substance abuse problem, they need to see authority figures as people they can trust, not as people constantly viewing them as suspects. Drug testing tells these kids they're guilty until proven innocent," Krane continued.

"If we only drug test students in athletics and extracurricular activities, and they might be experimenting or smoking a little pot, we're actually driving them away from participating in those activities. Is that what we want?" Krane asked rhetorically. "I think these kinds of policies actually create more drug abuse among young people."

While the battle is being fought district by district across the country, reform organizations are also keeping an eye on the prize in Washington, where Congress must decide whether to continue funding the Bush administration's drug testing grant program. While no further action is expected this year, activists are planning ahead.

School drug testing politics on Capitol Hill is done for this year, Krane, whose organization has fought student drug testing for years. "There is nothing to be done legislatively for the rest of the year," he said. "It looked like the ONDCP grants would be cut, the Senate version did cut it, but in the end, the Congress merged everything into an omnibus spending bill and they just re-upped at last year's spending levels."

"What we would like to see is a prohibition on using federal money to fund these student drug testing programs because funds under the Safe and Drug-Free Schools Act must go to programs that are evidence-based, and student drug testing is not evidence-based," said Kern. "But realistically, we can try to cut funding for the program and the drug czar's road trips to promote this."

Much depends on how the November election turns out, Kern said. "If we get a new drug czar who takes a public health approach to these issues, there is a really good chance of curtailing this ideologically-based federal push. There is already a lot of resistance at the state and local level because random suspicionless student drug testing goes against many best practices in prevention, school environment, and relationships and trust between students and teachers."

Search and Seizure: Florida Defense Attorneys Challenge Drug Dog "Hits"

Defense attorneys in Florida's Sarasota and Manatee counties are challenging the reliability of drug dog "hits" in drug possession and trafficking cases. So far, the tactic has produced mixed results.

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drug dog
Drug-sniffing dogs are increasingly used in traffic stops. Thanks to the US Supreme Court, which bizarrely ruled that a drug dog search is not a search, no search warrant or probable cause is needed for police to sic the dogs on unwary travelers. Controlled by a police handler, the drug dogs typically circle the vehicle once or twice and "alert" their handlers if they smell drugs. That "alert" then constitutes probable cause for a warrantless search of the vehicle.

But some drug dogs are just too good to be believed. In one case reported by the Tampa Tribune, a now-retired drug dog named Talon "alerted" on every single vehicle he sniffed during a four-month period -- even though drugs were found in less than half of them.

Such results call into question the dog's reliability and can result in a successful motion to suppress the evidence in drug cases, usually leading to the dismissal of charges. That's what happened in a recent Manatee County case. Circuit Judge Johnes Riva said in a ruling the dog's record of false "hits" gave her no choice but to throw out the evidence in a drug case.

But another drug dog, Zuul, who belongs to the Sarasota County Sheriff's Office, fared better in court recently. Even though, like Talon, Zuul "hit" on almost every car he sniffed even though no drugs were found in half of them, Sarasota County Circuit Court Judge Charles Roberts ruled that his nose was reliable enough to justify searching vehicles. Roberts bought prosecutors' and deputies' arguments that in every case where Zuul "alerted," either drugs were found or people in the vehicle admitted to using or possessing drugs in the recent past. That ruling has set up an appeal that could be headed for the Florida Supreme Court.

That set well with the Sarasota Sheriff's Office, which, along with other law enforcement entities, worried that Riva's earlier ruling against Talon would set a trend in case law. More rulings like Riva's would be "catastrophic to the way we've been doing business," said sheriff's office Sgt. Brian Olree, who oversees the K-9 division.

Now, local defense attorneys are checking the reliability of at least three other local drug dogs. "I don't think any of the dogs the Sarasota sheriff's office uses are qualified to detect drugs to get probable cause for searches," Assistant Public Defender Mark Adams told the Tribune.

Defense attorney Liane McCurry, who first successfully challenged Talon's drug-sniffing acumen, told the Tribune she expects to see more challenges to drug dogs' reliability. "I think every attorney should do that," she said.

Drug War Issues

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