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Why Do Newspapers Drug Test Their Employees?

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Staffers at two major newspapers in Washington, D.C. tell me that they were warned about possible drug tests when they were hired. I don't know how widespread the practice is, or whether testing is actually conducted, but it got me thinking…

Why would a newspaper drug test its employees? In an environment characterized by firm deadlines and intense public exposure and scrutiny, how on earth are drug tests necessary to ensure competence? Really, what could be more frivolous than drug testing people whose efficiency is so easily measured?

I suspect that these companies reserve the right to drug test, but rarely do so in practice. If so, it's the threat that counts; that precisely because deadlines rule in the newspaper world, you can't have your staff getting wasted on illegal drugs. But even that makes no sense, because incompetence will always be revealed well before the urinalysis results come in.

Could it be that these newspapers are literally afraid that stoned staffers will create stoned stories? Absent tight controls, perhaps mischievous drug addicts would take over, perverting reality itself through drug-fueled, mind-altered reporting. Certainly, we don't need subliminal pro-drug messages with our breakfast cereal, and we don't want some acid-freak's hallucinations reported as news.

If journalists can't get high without fear of dismissal, maybe that explains the wealth of uninformed, uninspired drivel that passes for drug reporting in the modern press. Then again, we all know that drug testing doesn't actually prevent people from partying, especially with those powerful "hard" drugs that leave your system within 48 hours.

At the very least, this practice reveals that an anti-drug bias is literally built into the structure of major news organizations. But that should come as no surprise to anyone whose seen false government propaganda cut and pasted from press releases to the pages of prestigious papers with no regard for accuracy or opposing viewpoints.

After all, if you get too creative with a drug story, they just might pull out the pee-cup on you.

United States
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Drug testing journalists = control

I really think that the testing culture in the US has contributed to the bad "reefer madness" journalism that has appeared. People are afraid to be "too creative" and over the years I have seen how journalists in other countries began to "see the light" about prohibition, while the reformer reaction has been muted in the US. While it probably has more to do with the puritanical culture, I think drug testing for journalists has compromised their reporting, as drug users are not represented in their ranks in proportion to the population, and this leads to reprinting police and DEA press releases because they don't know better.

drug abuse or money

I don't have a problem with losing a job if the loss is based on job performance. But when it's based on what should be a invasion of personal privacy it doesn't make much since. If you go to work everyday, your not late, you do your job well, isn't that what is suppose to count. Why dose something I do at home off duty have anything to do with my job. If it wasn't for the invasion of my privacy in the taking of my urine no one would know. What is the reason for drug testing anyway? If it is for the purpose of finding drug abusers then why don't they test for two of the most abused drugs out there Zanex and vicodin. If I smoked a joint a week ago am I still high today? Of course not, but my urine will test positive for up to 30 days later. There is something wrong with this. I ask you is marijuana the problem? Did marijuana cause me to lose my job? I say no and no, to me, marijuana is a better alternative than alcohol. Alcohol causes alot more problems. If there was a marijuana test simalar to the alcohol test that could tell if you had smoked any recently (within8hrs) there would be no problem. Will this ever happen? I dought it they need to justify their big bugets which is what it,s all about not drug abuse, not job performance but money. their right to take it and your right not to make it.

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I'm not surprised a

I'm not surprised a newspaper drug tests, considering I was randomly drug tested as well as pre-employment working at a grocery store when I was 16. I'm sure it was a very efficient business model to yank a 16 year old employees away from stocking meat to go pee in a cup. I mean seriously, where is the incentive to drug test? If your supervisor can't judge your performance using their own eyes, I'd have to question their ability to manage their employees in the first place.

Of course we always have the "option" to refuse to submit to a drug test, unless you know, you want the job.


I guess that would explain that article in the Seattle Times.

nice one scott!

as i like to continuously point out: if the only way to tell who the drug users are is to test their pee pee, then exactly what sort of a "problem" are they?

brian bennett


I agree with the above comments. I'm glad to see so many intelligent people out there. Last year, I graduated with a 4.0 in Business Administration. Does that mean anything to my potential employers? Not at all. You know, I can not even get a job at the local music store, video store, or at the onion factory without taking a drug test?
I believe some jobs are too important or dangerous for people to be under the influence at work, and it is irresponsible regardless. Therefore, I fully believe in the right to do on-site sobriety testing. But what I do after 5:00 is not any of my boss' business!

I work for a big daily paper...

And they do pre-employment screening. I am the rare drug war opponant who is in favor of legalizing ALL drugs, and doing away with the FDA, the DEA and any other impediment to real free markets, while actually using only alcohol and the occasional cigarette for recreational purposes. That's right, it's about human freedom for me, not a personal desire to get high without fear of getting busted, though I guess I want everyone to be able to get high without getting busted if that's what their heart's desire.

What is really ironic though, is that I am prescribed oxycodone for chronic pain due to nerve damage in my shoulder. I simply noted that on the pre-test form, and it never came up again. Here I sit, with keys to the place, thousand's of dollars of technology and software at my fingertips, making good money, and a bottle of powerful opiates on my desk, which I take 2 or 3 times a day on the job (since working a keyboard and mouse for 8-10 hours a day agravates the shoulder), while a guy who smokes a joint on the weekend can't get a job here taking out the trash.

The government of this country is insane, and it's forcing more and more businesses to be it's agents of enforcement. While ostensibly voluntary (in the sense that they're not mandated by law in most states) and justified by reference to lower insurance rates, higher job performance and increased safety, I would be willing to bet the farm that once the drug war ended, these kinds of "voluntary" testing regimes would disappear for all but the most sensitive and dangerous jobs. It is an unnecessary expense, but one that is born by this nation's employers in order to conform to the prevailing hysteria about drugs, since not testing would appear to many to condone their use. Sadly, no one objects anymore that it's simply no one's business what we do in our private lives, this nation's first reaction to any social issue is to exclaim, "there ought to be a law!" I think there oughtn't.

As an aside, I would imagine that the nation's alternative weeklies do not engage in these silly tests, which may explain why they are one of the few places you'll see pro-reform articles and opinions in print on a regular basis.


Very interesting stuff.

Our Culture

Many were concerned about random drug testing when it was initially proposed in worksites. We assumed that the legal pretense of a "probable cause" should be the prerequisite for an employer-mandated drug test.

When management approached labor officials regarding random drug testing, many labor officials balked at the idea but relented when bargaining unit employees indicated that they did not want to work with employees that were impaired by drugs for "safety" reasons.

Fellow workers and management do not understand that positive random drug testing result does not indicate that a worker is impaired on the worksite. Of more concern to me is our capitulation to give up the worker’s right to privacy for no apparent reason except “randomness.”

Drug testing

I have known some people who worked in places that drug tested and found guilty. BUT, they were such good workers that their employers just sent them to a make-shift rehab program and kept on working them. They didn't really care if workers did drugs, as long as they didn't do it on their time. Some say it's the 'insurance' thing. They are afraid of being sued, but that doesn't pan out either. It would be no problem to make it policy only to drug test in case of an 'incident'. Accident, bad business decision, ect; The only thing I can see about it is the power and control of the masses added to the intense greed for unquestioned obedience to the status quo. Most places DON'T like smart people to work for them. They are a threat to their jobs, drug tests are a constant threat, wheter you are taking drugs or not. It's like gossip, once you get tested, there's always a question about you, does he or doesn't he? It's more of a threat of slander among your peers, that keep you in line. Why don't they make gov. employees take them? Because if they did, you wouldn't have enough people to run the gov. And I know, having worked for them at the state level. Legal or illegal, it SHOULDN'T matter. But because there are people making money off illegal drugs in every way, besides prisons, fines, ect; Ultimately, the persecutors are in the cat-seat, and workers have to work and even do their criminal acts for them and keep their mouths shut.
Look at it this way, the well-to-do, can do their drugs in safety and comfort, never having to worry about punishment for their drug use, poor workers DO!


most insurance companies offer discounts if the employees are drug tested. sometimes the companies just put that in there for legal purposes though. if a company DOES need to drug test for worker's comp or any other reason, it could be brought up in court that the paperwork never informed the employee that they may be drug tested. its not really a big deal unless they're actually tested on a regular basis. don't get me wrong, i dont think random drug testing is moral or should be legal, but companies DO have their reasons.

They do have their reasons...

and i think that was a big part of Scott's point. The simple act of threatening with a drug test has great potential to dissuade people from writing things criticizing the drug war, and almost certainly from engaging in any sort of activism in favor of drug policy reform. It's just another one of the many reasons why mainstream media cannot be taken too seriously.


anyone know where i can find a list of companies that do not drug test in DC?


I also graduated with a 4.0 from nursing school and have worked several supervisory positions during the coarse of my career. I am a marijuana smoker and have been for many years. I have received many employee recognition awards for attendance and performance over the years. I know of many people in high level positions ie.. judges, Dr's, business owners, attorneys ect.. who use marijuana. The so call claims from the gov.. and insurance companies who insist drug use compromises employee attendance and performance is nothing short of BS! If companies continue to insist upon drug testing their employees they could be do more harm to their company than benefiting from the potential employee with the 4.0 GPA, high performance, and good attendance!


I too am a nurse and health care worker of over 30 years-and tonight I am reading about this subject because I work at a job where I may drive a company vehicle and they fucking test if you so much as bump it....I adore weed am am more pissed than words can tell over having to live with these insane monkeys-but I read one quote that said refusing a test equals guilt...I live in ohio-anyone know if that is true?...if so then fascism is our true state-but I cant belive it-I just cant google proof otherwise

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