RSS Feed for this category

Southeast Asia: Philippines Supreme Court Upholds Drug Testing for Students, Workers, But Not Political Candidates or Criminal Defendants

The Philippines Supreme Court this week upheld mandatory, random, suspicionless drug testing of workers and high school and college students, but struck down as unconstitutional provisions of the Comprehensive Dangerous Drugs Act of 2002 that required drug tests for candidates for political office or those charged with criminal offenses.

In a unanimous decision written by Justice Presbitero Velasco Jr., the court noted that the law says the random drug testing of employees "shall be undertaken under conditions calculated to protect as much as possible the employee's privacy and dignity," and that employers are not required to report positive test results to prosecutors. It also found that "the intrusion into the employee's privacy... is accompanied by proper safeguards, particularly against embarrassing leakages of test results, and is relatively minimal."

In the case of students, the high court found that drug testing was not only constitutional, but perhaps even necessary. It noted the presence of drugs in the country "that threatens the well-being of the people, particularly the youth and school children who usually end up as victims," adding that, "until a more effective method is conceptualized and put in motion, a random drug testing of students in secondary and tertiary schools is not only acceptable but may even be necessary if the safety and interest of the student population, doubtless a legitimate concern of the government, are to be promoted and protected."

Candidates for political office, however, may not be subjected to drug tests as condition of candidacy, the court held. The drug law's provisions requiring testing of candidates unconstitutionally added to the constitution's provisions defining the qualification or eligibility of candidates, the Supreme Court said.

The court was equally kind to people charged with criminal offenses, holding that they cannot be drug tested because they might incriminate themselves and because drug testing in their cases would not be random or suspicionless. "To impose mandatory drug testing on the accused is a blatant attempt to harness a medical test as a tool for criminal prosecution, contrary to the objectives of RA 9165 [the drug testing law]. Drug testing in this case would violate a person's right to privacy guaranteed under Section 2, Article III of the Constitution. Worse still, the accused persons are veritably forced to incriminate themselves," the opinion declared.

Flex Your Rights Protests Random Searches in D.C.

{Cross-posted from Flex Your Rights}

On Wednesday, Flex Your Rights brought together numerous allies, volunteers and friends to protest random searches on public transportation in the Nation’s Capital. The effort was aimed at voicing opposition to the new search policy, while educating the public about the 4th Amendment right to refuse police searches.

The event generated considerable media attention, including the Washington Post, the Washington CityPaper, and local ABC and NBC affiliates:

Thanks so much to our friends at the Electronic Privacy Information Center, Law Enforcement Against Prohibition,, Students for Sensible Drug Policy, and all the volunteers who came out and made this effort a success.

The constant emergence of new threats to our civil liberties is a difficult thing for any freedom-loving citizen to behold, but this unfortunate event also provided a unique opportunity to educate the public about 4th Amendment rights, and that’s exactly what we did.

Random Searches in Our Nation’s Capital

I’ve got a post at Flex Your Rights about a new random search program that will supposedly protect Washington, DC’s public transit system from terrorism. Of course, anyone found with contraband will be arrested, and you can bet they’ll be finding a lot more bongs than bombs.

As many of you know, I don’t buy into that defeatist "4th Amendment is dead" hyperbole, because that mentality leads people to surrender and start waiving their rights. The greatest threat to the 4th Amendment is the widespread misconception that it’s no longer worth understanding and asserting our rights. People who know their rights get better outcomes during police encounters and that remains true despite anything and everything the wars on drugs and terror have done to undermine our basic freedoms.

So we put together The Citizen’s Guide to Refusing DC Metro Searches. If you live in the DC area, or plan on visiting sometime, you’ll want to check this out.

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
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.
Northern Mariana Islands (map from
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 or send an email to 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
Wed, 10/29/2008 - 9:30am - 2:00pm
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"

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.

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."

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.
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.

Drug War Issues

Criminal JusticeAsset Forfeiture, Collateral Sanctions (College Aid, Drug Taxes, Housing, Welfare), Court Rulings, Drug Courts, Due Process, Felony Disenfranchisement, Incarceration, Policing (2011 Drug War Killings, 2012 Drug War Killings, 2013 Drug War Killings, 2014 Drug War Killings, 2015 Drug War Killings, Arrests, Eradication, Informants, Interdiction, Lowest Priority Policies, Police Corruption, Police Raids, Profiling, Search and Seizure, SWAT/Paramilitarization, Task Forces, Undercover Work), Probation or Parole, Prosecution, Reentry/Rehabilitation, Sentencing (Alternatives to Incarceration, Clemency and Pardon, Crack/Powder Cocaine Disparity, Death Penalty, Decriminalization, Defelonization, Drug Free Zones, Mandatory Minimums, Rockefeller Drug Laws, Sentencing Guidelines)CultureArt, Celebrities, Counter-Culture, Music, Poetry/Literature, Television, TheaterDrug UseParaphernalia, ViolenceIntersecting IssuesCollateral Sanctions (College Aid, Drug Taxes, Housing, Welfare), Violence, Border, Budgets/Taxes/Economics, Business, Civil Rights, Driving, Economics, Education (College Aid), Employment, Environment, Families, Free Speech, Gun Policy, Human Rights, Immigration, Militarization, Money Laundering, Pregnancy, Privacy (Search and Seizure, Drug Testing), Race, Religion, Science, Sports, Women's IssuesMarijuana PolicyGateway Theory, Hemp, Marijuana -- Personal Use, Marijuana Industry, Medical MarijuanaMedicineMedical Marijuana, Science of Drugs, Under-treatment of PainPublic HealthAddiction, Addiction Treatment (Science of Drugs), Drug Education, Drug Prevention, Drug-Related AIDS/HIV or Hepatitis C, Harm Reduction (Methadone & Other Opiate Maintenance, Needle Exchange, Overdose Prevention, Safe Injection Sites)Source and Transit CountriesAndean Drug War, Coca, Hashish, Mexican Drug War, Opium ProductionSpecific DrugsAlcohol, Ayahuasca, Cocaine (Crack Cocaine), Ecstasy, Heroin, Ibogaine, ketamine, Khat, Marijuana (Gateway Theory, Marijuana -- Personal Use, Medical Marijuana, Hashish), Methamphetamine, New Synthetic Drugs (Synthetic Cannabinoids, Synthetic Stimulants), Nicotine, Prescription Opiates (Fentanyl, Oxycontin), Psychedelics (LSD, Mescaline, Peyote, Salvia Divinorum)YouthGrade School, Post-Secondary School, Raves, Secondary School