Feature: Citing Startling Research on False Positive Drug Tests, Researchers Call for Moratorium on Field Drug Test Kit Testing

Submitted by Phillip Smith on (Issue #575)
Consequences of Prohibition
Drug War Issues

[inline:falsepositives5.jpg align=right caption="from left: Ron Obadia, Nadine Artemis, John Kelly, Adam Eidinger, Rob Kampia, Omar Bagasra"]The National Press Club in Washington, DC took on the aspect of a chemistry lab for a short while Tuesday afternoon as scientists and researchers sponsored by the Marijuana Policy Project gave a startling demonstration of false positive drug test results obtained using some of the most widely used field testing kits employed by law enforcement to detect the presence of marijuana and other drugs.

As a lab-coated and rubber glove wearing researcher from the South Carolina Center for Biotechnology dumped a sample of oregano into a field test kit, Mintwood Media's Adam Eidinger produced a positive test result for cocaine with another kit simply by exposing it to the atmosphere. "This is just air," Eidinger said, opening up a test and waving it as the reagent turned orange, indicating a positive result. (See the YouTube video here.)

The testing done at the press conference replicated that done earlier by the researchers, who found that a surprisingly large number of common substances generated false positive results for the presence of drugs. "While testing the specificity of the KN Reagent test kits with 42 non-marijuana substances, I observed that 70% of these tests rendered a false positive," said Dr. Omar Bagasra, director of the Center for Biotechnology, who conducted the experiments.

[inline:falsepositives2.jpg align=left caption="field test generating false positive from mere air" (Katie Schuler, bellvisuals.com)"]""That's just outrageous," exclaimed Eidinger.

That research came as part of new report, False Positives Equal False Justice, by forensics expert John Kelly in collaboration with former FBI chief scientist and narcotics officer Dr. Frederick Whitehurst. In the report, the pair uncovered "a drug testing regime of fraudulent forensics used by police, prosecutors, and judges which abrogates every American's constitutional rights," as Kelly wrote in the executive summary.

"Law enforcement officials, forensic drug analysts, and prosecutors knowingly employ the flawed Duquenois-Levine and KN Reagent tests as well as mere conclusory police reports to wrongfully prosecute and convict millions of individuals for anti-marijuana law violations," Kelly wrote. "These wrongful prosecutions and convictions violate Supreme Court rulings which prohibit the use of inaccurate, nonspecific tests and/or conclusory reports because they do not prove the presence of marijuana in a seized substance. In other words, millions of people have been, and continue to be, prosecuted and convicted of marijuana charges without proof that they possessed marijuana."

[inline:falsepositives3.jpg align=right caption="Dr. Bagasra testing the field test on chocolate" (Katie Schuler, bellvisuals.com)"]Both Kelly and MPP executive director Rob Kampia used the report's findings to call for a moratorium on the use of field drug testing kits. "It is imperative that law enforcement agencies take notice and voluntarily end the use of these flawed drug tests. The essential need of protecting the innocent must outweigh the convenience of a field drug test that only gives accurate information some of the time," wrote Kelly.

"In terms of policy recommendations, it's real simple, no one should be using these faulty field tests, they should be thrown out and the company that's making them should probably be put out of business," Kampia told the press conference. "Natural soap, chocolate and newspaper, among other household items, all will test positive for marijuana and other drugs such as GHB, yet these kits continue to be used in both arrests and prosecutions nationwide. In our society we have the principle that you are supposed to be innocent until proven guilty. These tests turn that on its head."

ODV, a subsidiary of Forensic Source, manufactures the NIK Narco Pouch 908 and 909 tested by the researchers. The company did not respond to requests for comment by day's end on Thursday. The tests' packaging warns that they can produce false positives, but does not mention that most of their positives are false.

[inline:falsepositives1.jpg align=left caption="common items that generate false positives (Katie Schuler, bellvisuals.com)"]False positive field drug tests can ruin your day. Ask Don Bolles, drummer for the punk band The Germs. He was arrested and jailed for three days in April 2007 because a field test said the Dr. Bronner's Magic Soap he had with him tested positive for GHB. That field test was done with the NarcoPouch 928, another in the ODV line. Later testing revealed the 928 would generate false positives with a wide variety of natural soaps, as well as soy milk.

Bryn Mawr honor student Janet Lee was another victim of inaccurate field drug test kits. As she prepared to fly home for Christmas break in 2003, she was arrested at the Philadelphia airport after three condoms filled with flour (she said she squeezed them for stress relief) came up as cocaine on a cobalt thiocyanate (C-T) field test. She spent three weeks in jail facing charges that could net her 20 years in prison before an attorney demanded the drug be retested. Lee collected $180,000 from the city two years later to settle a lawsuit, but still suffered the Kafkaesque nightmare of being jailed.

Lee was lucky. A jail guard recognized her as a volunteer and beat the bushes for a good attorney. It is unknown how many others like her there are who, lacking such resources, either were found guilty or plea bargained to crimes of which they were innocent because of deceptive field drug tests.

[inline:falsepositives4.jpg align=right caption="the fraudulent field test packets"]Another widely publicized incident of bad field drug tests occurred in August, when Ron Obadia and Nadine Artemis were arrested, handcuffed to a chair, and interrogated for hours at the Toronto Airport after their raw chocolate tested positive for hashish with the Duquenois-Levine color chemical test. They were placed in separate rooms and were told that they faced "life in prison" unless they confessed. Each of them was also told that the other already had confessed.

Later lab testing proved it was indeed chocolate, not hash, and the pair were sent on their way. They also accumulated a $20,000 legal bill. To add insult to injury, when the couple tried again to fly to the US three weeks later with their raw chocolate, it again tested positive on the field test kit. This time, Obadia was arrested and charged with hash possession.

Permission to Reprint: This content is licensed under a modified Creative Commons Attribution license. Content of a purely educational nature in Drug War Chronicle appear courtesy of DRCNet Foundation, unless otherwise noted.


Rural WA (not verified)

I read the full False Positives Equal False Justice report. It should be prominently displayed at every court entrance a potential juror, judge, defendant or defense attorney might possibly use. A link to the report is going to be added to my list of email signatures. If every potential juror is aware of the common use of inaccurate tests, when the time comes that some are on a drug trial jury they may realize and notice that the prosecution has failed to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the substance involved is the substance it is alledged to be.

A link to the report should be emailed to every Public Defender and private defense attorney also.

Fri, 03/06/2009 - 3:43pm Permalink
Stephanie Cahall (not verified)

In reply to by Rural WA (not verified)

in athens texas i was pulled over for speeding and taken to jail for  cigarette rolling papers and denture repair powder found in my purse search .shortly after  my release in court for speeding ticket  i was guilty and the cigarette papers paraphinalia charge was dropped.the police field test wasnt the color of positive he showed and after i said the difference in color.the police threw the test in weeds?i am certified pharmacy techncian never has had any drug charges or accused of such.after 6 months of waiting i now am being indicted for the denture repair powder being called possession of drugs?i dont know how or what to do to prove my innocence

Fri, 02/15/2013 - 5:27pm Permalink
JJOKLAHOM A (not verified)

In reply to by Stephanie Cahall (not verified)


5803727349 CALL ME



Wed, 11/06/2013 - 1:13am Permalink
LOVE MY KIDS C… (not verified)

In reply to by Rural WA (not verified)

Ok so here is the deal I have just had my 5th child and  I had  been a  meth user about7 years ago I am an addict but to my pain meds thats it, My OBGYN had requested that I should instead of staying on WHAT i had been prescribed by my pain management dr he requested that I start attending the clinic asap for the best intrest of the baby so I did. dcfs had been harrasing for the last 2 years sense I had gotten clean and stopped failing drug screens jobs so on so forth. This is inclueding during my pregnancy they new what dose I was on they new everything.Well after I had the bay dcfs had me bring my other children in t see them give me another drug screen ask question told her that I had already started my with drawl and she sent us home.Almost exactly a week later (note I was with my new born at the nicu just getting ready to bring her home the next day and i ended up not bringing her home at all but she stayed an extra 2 weeks)got an officer and removed my daughter from her father and he had done nothing wrong at all but take care of our babies.The swab tested him that day he messed up ,never took one a day in his life and help onto the part that was suppose to go in his mouth. At our team meeting that the well it was bs the case worker is trying to intimadate my bofriend well on that day she had let everyone know that was attending that my bf failed for amphetamines which he takes niquil to knock him out during the day because he works night and dayquil at nite also we both have had a serious cold that has been beating us both upfor about four weeks now r longer we have been taking sudofed, aleve d, robatussin  couple others so yea. Well I took a drug test on that same day and in which they said I failed mine for meth and i never did that i know for sure just sudofed cold meds  energy pills and my methadone  that i went from 130 mgs a day to 70 in 2 weeks o i had also gotting dental work done the day before i know they gave me novicane at least six or seven shots I had a lot of teeth that needed fixed. I am also prescribed to an epi pen and i had to use that because I had gotten stung by a bee maybe 3 r 4 days before.I know it had to have been a false positive I have not failed one single drug screen threwout the last 3 years and I am not going to when I know I am going to get testedCPS also sent that drug test to m Probation officer with out even telling me I failed it she still doesnt know that i know. I went and peed in a cup for my P once again clean,DCFS gave us both swab test they not only have takin my babies away now they trying to through me in jail to I you or anyone know about hippa law please help me. O and I WANT TO CONFIRM IF ANYONE CAN IF U TOUCH THE PART OF A SWAB TEST WITH UR FINGERS IT SHOULD HAVE BEEN DEEMED NOT GOOD CONTAMINATED AND BEEN THROWN OUT AND LETS DO ANOTHER RITE?

Wed, 09/17/2014 - 4:28am Permalink
Whitehead (not verified)

In reply to by Rural WA (not verified)

Could you possibly provide me with that link you mentioned. I was arrested and treated like a DOG last night after getting pulled over and in the back floorboard in plain sight was a ladle my husband had gotten from his work because they were throwing it away. It was used in the mixing room where 200+ chemicals are used and mixed together to make brake pad materials. Because it had residue from years of sitting in a cabinet and collecting these materials I had a very small amount of what looked like ordinary old dust to me but o was accused of having meth residue on it and he came back after placing me in his car and said it tested positive and it was in a little bubble pouch . I never saw him testing it nor did I see what he did with the ladle after I handed to him with no worries because I knew where it had come from but am extremely worried over this. I do not do meth not have I ever done meth and when I asked to be drug tested I was refused. I honestly think that if it even was TRUELY tested that some of these chemicals it was exposed to May have cause this problem but am now going to have to fight a felony. Ty
Tue, 01/13/2015 - 10:20pm Permalink
Rural WA (not verified)

Democracry Now! is a relatively prominent radio, TV and web news program which might take an interest in this and report on it. Perhaps even interview people and explore implications of faulty test use on air. Many people submitting this as a story will increase the likelyhood of this happening. Please take a few minutes to make such a submission with a brief comment and links to this story and the report itself.

Fri, 03/06/2009 - 4:28pm Permalink
Anonymous (not verified)

Most people who are returned to prison for parole and probation violations are for "technical" violations such as failed drug tests.

In Pennsylvania, on average, a third of the people released from prison each year are returned on 'technical' violations and about 23% for committing new crimes. The state does not break it down for types of 'technical' violation but failed drug tests are, I believe, a major factor.

Fri, 03/06/2009 - 5:15pm Permalink
Anonymous (not verified)

Yes! This info needs to be boiled down to poster size and then put up in every public place we can. Fantastic work, MPP!

Now...Those infamous random company piss tests...are they also this faulty? I've passed quite a few of 'em but they always have me worried that something stupid I ate like goat cheese or poppy seeds will show up as contraband.

Anyone know anything about the piss tests?

Bertha And Maude

Fri, 03/06/2009 - 5:31pm Permalink
Anonymous (not verified)

Dr. Bronner (read the label on his soap) must be spinning in his tomb; he of all people, didn't want us to be slaves...!

Fri, 03/06/2009 - 9:13pm Permalink
Anonymous (not verified)

no pee. No justice, no pee...

Sat, 03/07/2009 - 1:37pm Permalink
Anonymous (not verified)

If you ever watch that "reality" show Homeland Security they are always "proving" the presence of illegal substances by using these testing kits. It would be nice if they mentioned the false positives they get with these things on that show. Government do the right thing? Nah!

Mon, 03/09/2009 - 11:47pm Permalink
Anonymous (not verified)

I am currently fighting with my PAROLE over FALSE POSITIVE UAs that they claim do not happen!!!! Texas

Sat, 03/14/2009 - 8:16pm Permalink
xraygurl111 (not verified)

In reply to by Anonymous (not verified)

I am also on probation where I was sent to a place where I was drug tested as part of an outpatient drug program...i have not used any drugs in over 90 days yet at 60 days and at 30 days i tested positive for cocaine even though I had not used any i have never had a positive result when tested at probation but they also use a different brand of urine drug screen it is a cup with the panel built into it the one that gave false positive results was the Reditest dipstick ten panel test my probation has been revoked and i am going to jail for something i didn't do

Thu, 11/03/2011 - 5:43pm Permalink
xraygurl111 (not verified)

In reply to by Anonymous (not verified)

I am also on probation where I was sent to a place where I was drug tested as part of an outpatient drug program...i have not used any drugs in over 90 days yet at 60 days and at 30 days i tested positive for cocaine even though I had not used any i have never had a positive result when tested at probation but they also use a different brand of urine drug screen it is a cup with the panel built into it the one that gave false positive results was the Reditest dipstick ten panel test my probation has been revoked and i am going to jail for something i didn't do

Thu, 11/03/2011 - 5:43pm Permalink
katiekaboom (not verified)

In reply to by Anonymous (not verified)

I lost my kids to false positives. I could fill the sample cup with holy water & it would come back positive for PCP! these tests are so inaccurate its a joke!!
Wed, 08/14/2013 - 5:43pm Permalink
Lee (not verified)

I was recently banned from entering a job site that my company is working on because I tested positive for cocaine and pcp. I have used cocaine in the past but not in about 4 years. I have never in my life touched pcp. I have epilipsy and take 325 mg of lamictal per day. I have also tested positive for cocaine while taking dilantin and depakote for siezures. This is total BS and I am seriously considering getting an attorney. Thank you for the information. This really helps me better understnd my rights.

Fri, 08/21/2009 - 4:59pm Permalink
Anonymous (not verified)

can benedril and ultram test as methodone?

Thu, 09/24/2009 - 4:19pm Permalink
cj (not verified)

My 12 year old son was recently kicked out of school. I should note my son has an I.E.P. and attends special ed classes. The school showed a drug info video where my son saw a joint. shortly after he noticed a ripped green tea bag in the trash and saw that it looked exactly like the pot he saw in the video. He put it in a paper and did his best to make it look like what he saw and took it to school to show it. (always stating it was just tea) he never tried to hide it and gave it to a teacher when asked. IT TESTED + for pot. we have had it sent to lab and are waiting for the results. When I asked the police to test the tea to compare they refused even when we offered to pay for the test. He was charged, put on an In home detention, nearly sent to a jjc, taken from school in cuffs, and kicked out of school for 45 days all on the results of the field test. now the school is telling us if we bring his lawyer to his IEP review we will not be allowed in!!! HELP ME ACLU.

Sat, 04/10/2010 - 9:44am Permalink
Jennifer (not verified)

I'm currently on Probation and i got a notice yesterday that i have to report Monday I have had a cold for a week now and the only thing i can take is Robitussin and Sudafed and Tylenol I only take Tylenol  for my headaches because I'm pregnant with my 3rd child and that all i can take and as i said before I have been sick for a week so I've taken the nasal decongestant and cough syrup and i terrified that I'm going to end up with a false positive and be violated and I do not have the money to have that sent to the lab if it comes back positive I have 3 years of probation and I was put on it in 2009 it's been a year so i still have 2 years left and i so afraid that I'm going  to jail and lose my children because of a false positive i have in the past used drugs but that been 5 years ago and since i have became a mother i have left that life behind and i passed every drug test since 2009 but now as i said I'm terrified that I'm going to jail and i will lose my children and we do not have that money to bond me out if that's happens. What should i do? I been there once for the charge that got me the probation and i never want to go back!

Fri, 09/17/2010 - 9:11am Permalink

  When stopped refuse the test just like alcohol stop.  Gives you time to get it together for the judge. Certainly a hassle but what's the alternative?   Another symptom of our corrupt and antiquated justice system and the cowardly politicians who allow this crap to go on.

Sat, 09/18/2010 - 11:18am Permalink
crosseyed mary (not verified)

When our government regulators golf, dine, drink and party (on expense accounted gruel)  with the testing industries' presidents and CEOs at the Biltmore in Arizona,  something is fishy.

Thu, 10/07/2010 - 10:10am Permalink
nancie (not verified)

I have been on a methadone maintenance program for the past 12 years. I know most people will say that is a long time, it has been a life saver. For the first 8 -9 years I continued to abuse opiates while taking methadone and came close to being discharged for non-compliance with program rules. About 3 yrs ago I finally "got it" and realized I was only hurting myself and stopped using all illicit drugs. Other than the methadone the only thing I take is Benadryl (diphenhydramine) due to chronic insomnia. My primary doctor has prescribed many different sleep meds but with most of them the side effects were worse than the insomnia itself. My problem is that I keep getting false positive benzodiazipine urine tests. If I don't take them for 2 or 3 days before my scheduled urine I get a negative benzo result. While I realize that us junkies are notoriously less than truthful about past and present drug use and abuse, I can assure you that I am not lying about my current situation and need to find someone who can explain why this is happening and what I can do to remedy the situation before I get terminated from the program that I credit with saving my life. Any response whether positive or negative would be greatly appreciated.

Sat, 11/20/2010 - 2:34pm Permalink
BAD TESTS (not verified)

Nitroglycerine also causes these tests to test positive for Meth.

Lets get these things OUT of law enforcement hands.


Mon, 07/04/2011 - 9:49pm Permalink
Mike C. (not verified)

09-24-2012   On this date I took a random drug test and  3 days later was told I fail for thc . 1 week prior had a colonoscopy. What meds were given at the time I am checking into. That week before the test I was given a prescription of omeprazole . I also took nabumetone ,  methocarbamol , percocet , ibuprofen , benadryl , advil migraine , and cortizone creme.  I was told that I have diverticulosis, and with a diverticulitis out break that why I had a colon screening. On 10-02-2012 I asked my employer to retest split bottle B for detention. For on 10-01-2012 I was fired from my duties as a CDL-A truck driver. I currently live in Virginia and now seeking any and all information and advice in what to do . The MRO ( medical review officer ) would not listion to my explaination of meds that were given to me . Hoping to get this resolve without to much exspensce. If anyone is reading this please respond. Yes 30/40 years ago in high school did smoke a little, not now!. Reading other comments on line it seems my CDL-A is over for good. Not sure if unemployment will help , have not file yet. Waiting for the results of the split bottle test. Thanks Mike.....   

Wed, 10/03/2012 - 5:48pm Permalink
Tracey (not verified)

I am disabled due to a crumbling spine and several lesser problems.  Have gone to my same family dr. for 13 years for hydrocodone, steroids, ativan and paxil.  When the new laws for drug testing passed, I had no problem taking my first one for him because I have taken my meds faithfully for all these years, that is every single day for over 5,000 days!  I was devastated when his secretary called to tell me that my urine test came back negative for any drugs whatsoever and that I was completely cut off, period, no weaning down to avoid serious withdrawals, no referral to another dr., nothing!  I begged for a second test and was told no!  I have suffered terribly and can't understand how they could do this to me after knowing me so well for so long.  Is there anything I can do about this?  My life has deteriorated bigtime, can't do much of anything but wear my backbrace and tens unit and cry all the time.  Any ideas?  Please help!

Mon, 03/04/2013 - 1:25pm Permalink
Reikok (not verified)

My son is an inmate in a Washington state corrections center.  Recently, being tested prior to an Extended Family Visit, he tested positive (I believe for Valium) and our visit immediately cancelled.  He is adamant he has not taken or done anything illegal since day one.  He is a diabetic with kidney failure.  He takes these medications prescribed by the prison doctor -- Furosemide 40 mg, Carvedilol 25 mg, Simvastatin 20 mg, D3 3 2000u, Glipizide 10 mg, B12 injections, aspirin .81 mg.  Please verify any or all of these can impact a false positive test result .  Also American Biomedical Corp test cups or any other test cups resulting in false positive tests. Failure ratings, recalls?  He is naturally upset, faced with possibly losing  all he has worked hard for and even new charges;  only his doctor agreeing his medications could have an impact.  Can you send me any information that can be  presented to in hearing next week.  Thank you so much.   

Tue, 05/20/2014 - 2:21pm Permalink
corey (not verified)

we all have stories.  I was driving to work, I run a Toner Mfg company,  as soon as I pulled in my spot at work, I was looking at a gun from a Sheriff in the City of Newhall, Ca.  He said he would blow my head off if I moved. I did not move.  After he threw me to the ground, going crazy on me, he said who is Joseph, and where did I get this car.  The car I purchased 4 month earlier from a large sized used car lot.  It had already been transferred over to me.  The car had plates from the old owner who was a wanted felon.  After they went through my car, they found a tea bag, old and stuff growing on it inside a baggy.  I am not the cleanest person around, my car is a mess, and my trunk also.  I told them to test the bag, they said no. I was taken to jail, where I spent the entire day until family paid $1000 to get me out.  I went to court, paid another $1000 for lawyer to be with me.  The charges were dropped, and I was then cleared of wrong doing. I can not feel my right thumb, they did the cuffs so tight, 3 weeks later I have no feeling in the right thumb.  I was in my parking space at work, and this Sheriff, was crazy mad, angry, and from the first second going to take me in for something. The employees that work for me were all watching this happen to me. I did not know what was going to happen.  Be careful, my employees all said the cop was wanting to shoot me, he was yelling and screaming at me the whole time. 

Fri, 07/04/2014 - 4:21pm Permalink
corey (not verified)

I feel bad for all of you,  I wish if I was a lawyer, I would start a practice to help all of you for free!   I was

just getting to work, I run a Toner Mfg Co in Newhall Ca.  When I pulled into my spot at work,  I was almost shot by a crazy Sheriff, who was yelling at me,  don't move or I blow your head off.   I had done nothing wrong, and was very confused.  He called me Jonathon, and said where did you get this car.  I purchased the car from a

larger sized used car lot.  The car was 4 months in my hands, and already in my name.  It turns out the old owner was a wanted felon, and black, I am white.  After they went into my trunk,.  they pulled out a old tea bag in a baggy, and said bingo HEROIN I said test it, it's not drugs. They would not, and took my to jail,  My family put up the $1000 bond., and got me out.  I then had to pay another $1000 for lawyer.  I went to court, and they dropped the charges.  But I can't feel my right thumb, it's still numb from the cuffs.  This was as bad as it gets for me.  I have no record, never been in trouble.  But on that day, the Sheriff was going to take me away

even for a Tea bag.  I just say be careful,  and get a lawyer, if you have the money.  I didn't have to get a lawyer, but I was glad that someone told me what was going on.  I would of spent the whole day in court and then not have a clue to what is going on. 

Fri, 07/04/2014 - 4:33pm Permalink

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