|Week Online: What
exactly is your business, and what are you hoping to accomplish?
Kenneth Curtis: My
business is a platform for free speech directed against the urine testing
industry. What we do is provide complete substitution kits that allow
anyone to substitute our certified, pre-tested urine sample, because of
our objections to the urine testing industry. They can find out a
lot more than whether someone is using illicit substances. They can
find out medical information that they aren't allowed to ask you by law.
I was a pipe-fitter, and got tested about a dozen times a year.
I'm an American, I believe
in civil liberties, and I was being presumed guilty without any presumption
of innocence. I lay awake at night because I felt raped by the whole
experience. I wanted to demonstrate how ridiculously invasive this
whole thing is. I wanted to make a point. I'm not trying to
help people pass drug tests; I'm trying to attack the whole idea that drug
tests are proper in the workplace.
WOL: Don't employers
have a right to test employees?
Curtis: That's correct.
Impairment testing is logical and reasonable. If someone is in a
position where he could potentially endanger the public or other workers,
then an impairment test is the way to go. Not urine tests, not hair
tests, not tests that measure the metabolic presence of some substance.
Those tests do not measure the employee's ability to do the job, but they
do allow employers access to health information they couldn't otherwise
get. An employer can't ask you if you're diabetic or on anti-depressants,
but these drug screens will reveal such information. Employers can
use information gathered by urine tests and hair tests to get around fair
hiring practices, but the tests can't tell them whether the employee can
safely do the job.
WOL: So, how's business?
Curtis: Well, right
now I am prohibited from selling any urine, but we're still selling the
kits minus the urine. Every time they do something like this, it
just drives it on. I wouldn't be doing any business at all if they
hadn't drawn attention to me by making it illegal in the first place.
Of course, this law was inspired by my activities, it was made for me,
directed at me, and enforced against me. And only me. During
my trial, we were prepared to provide evidence showing that other companies
on the Internet were selling urine kits. The judge wouldn't allow
that evidence, but I can't believe South Carolina authorities are not aware
As I've said, the urine wasn't
designed to beat drug tests; the whole idea was to illustrate the folly
of the drug war and drug testing, to create media attention. What
I'm really doing is telling people how easy it is to get over on the urine
testing industry, and awareness of the issue is half the fight. I
find it interesting that one person like me can foil a billion-dollar industry
with just these things. When people stand up and start objecting,
things will change. In the meantime, people who support the cause
are buying the kits. Not only are you making a statement about the
industry, but it's also a good way to aid my legal defense.
WOL: How have you been
treated by South Carolina authorities?
Curtis: Selective prosecution
is one word, I guess. How about a political vendetta? I've
personally lampooned the person responsible for this law, Senate Chairman
David L. Thomas (R), on the Montel Williams show, the Today Show, Politically
Incorrect, and other national and local venues, and then after two
years of leaving me alone, Thomas writes a letter demanding that South
Carolina law officers enforce the statute. I tried civil actions
and injunctions to keep them from enforcing the law, but the judges threw
that out. Then I went to the state law enforcement center with my
lawyer and gave the kits away to anyone who would take one. I gave
one to the desk seargeant. They took me to the back of the station
and called prosecutors, but he said to go home. I did business for
two years after that before Thomas sicced the police on me. They
did two undercover buys over the Internet, then arranged a purchase near
my home. The next thing you know, they're raiding me like I was a
drug dealer. Fifteen armed SWAT agents tore my house apart, trashed
the place, but took nothing but business records. They didn't even
seize my urine! That was a blatant attempt at intimidation -- I mean,
kicking doors in and sending in SWAT teams for urine. That has to
be a low point in the history of the South Carolina Law Enforcement Division.
WOL: Did things go
any better in court?
Curtis: Both the prosecutor
and the judge were positively rabid, foaming at the mouth. We had
a jury trial, but the judge wouldn't allow us to present any evidence.
He made every effort to keep the real story from the jury. And I
never had the intent to defraud drug tests, but that doesn't matter in
court when the prosecutors say I intended to. It is hard to prove
a negative. So I was found guilty, and the judge, true to form, gave
me the maximum sentence, six years and a $40,000 fine, although he did
suspend all but six months, but that still leaves me under their thumb
for years. I wanted to show how ridiculous this whole urine testing
law is and what I got is a dramatic illustration of how far the government
is willing to go to prop up the war on drugs.
WOL: What now?
Curtis: We're appealing
to the State Supreme Court and US federal courts. We are appealing
constitutional issues as well as the verdict itself. I'm under a
bond stipulation from the judge that I not participate in any business
containing urine anywhere in the world. Their whole course is to
try to break their opponents financially and thus break their will to fight.
But I'm not made that way; all it does is make me madder, more determined.
WOL: You are potentially
facing time in prison for your unique form of activism. Any regrets?
Curtis: No regrets.
Well, yes, a couple. I regret that a jury of my peers didn't get
to hear my defense. And never having been through a criminal proceeding,
I now regret my naivete in thinking I could find justice in the criminal
courts. I expect to be treated to the worst prison conditions South
Carolina has to offer if I lose on appeal, but I will continue my course.
I hope the courts will eventually uphold me. I can't believe the
Founding Fathers wanted the courts to be doing what they did in South Carolina
in my case.