By Kellen Russoniello, student, George Washington University Law Center and NORML legal intern
[Update: A federal judge ruled on April 26, 2012 that Florida's drug testing law for unemployment benefits is unconstitutional.]
As several states are considering or implementing policies that require recipients of government benefits such as welfare to undergo drug tests, the federal government has shown approval for the same flawed rationale. Last week, President Obama signed into law an agreement reached by Congress which maintains the payroll tax cut and extends unemployment benefits, but also allows states to drug test people who seek unemployment benefits if they were fired from their previous job for using drugs or if they are seeking a job that would ordinarily require drug tests.
The Middle Class Tax Relief and Job Creation Act of 2012, H.R. 3630, was signed on February 22, 2012. Section 2105 amends the Social Security Act by allowing states to drug test applicants for unemployment benefits and deny those benefits in the case of a positive result.
What percentage of those applying would be forced to pee in a cup? Although the numbers are unclear, Republicans had cited a study claiming 84% of employers required new hires to pass a drug test. Initially, Republicans had pushed for drug testing all applicants, but this was opposed by Democrats. In order to extend the payroll tax cut and unemployment, however, Democrats caved on the issue of drug testing.
A columnist for Time pointed out several flaws in this policy. First, a single failure of a drug test does not treat addiction or even determine if treatment is necessary. In fact, because marijuana can stay in the body’s system for extended periods of time, drug tests are likely to disqualify cannabis users even though it is one of the least addictive drugs. Second, people may shift their use to other drugs, such as K2 or Spice, which are more difficult to detect in a urine screen but may be more detrimental to the person’s health. Third, creating obstacles for the unemployed to get back on their feet may actually worsen drug use, as it fosters anger and resentment.
Further arguments against this policy include that although the government estimates drug use among unemployed to be about twice that of the employed population, the rates of drug use among those applying for welfare benefits were found to be equal to the general population in Michigan when it tried to implement a drug test law, and much less than the general population in Florida. Not to mention, this type of policy is most likely unconstitutional.
Hopefully states will come to their senses and not opt to implement this policy. If your state is one of the 23 states considering mandatory drug testing for welfare benefits, contact your legislators and tell them to oppose these unsound and unconstitutional policies.
We get many comments on our stories about K2/Spice, the chemical “JWH-018″ and others like it that the media have dubbed “fake pot” or “synthetic marijuana.” The reason there is even such a chemical is that the scientist who invented it, John W. Huffman, could not get access to natural cannabis to study cannabinoids. Now he’s telling ABC News what we’ve been saying for decades: prohibition creates more dangerous drugs!
(ABC News) now that “Spice” and other forms of imitation pot are sending users to emergency rooms across America, the retired professor has an idea of how to stem the epidemic. If the federal government would legalize the real thing, says Huffman, maybe consumers wouldn’t turn to the far more dangerous fake stuff.
Huffman, who developed more than 400 “cannabinoids” as an organic chemist at Clemson University, says that marijuana has the benefit of being a known quantity, and not a very harmful one. We know the biological effects of THC, the active ingredient in marijuana, Huffman told ABC News, because they have been thoroughly studied. “The scientific evidence is that it’s not a particularly dangerous drug,” said Huffman.
“I talked to a marijuana provider from California, a doctor, a physician,” explained Huffman, “and he said that in California, that these things are not near the problem they are in the rest of the country simply because they can get marijuana. And marijuana, even for recreational use is quite easy to get in California, and it’s essentially decriminalized. And marijuana is not nearly as dangerous as these compounds.”
The United States Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) today, as anticipated, exercised its ‘emergency scheduling authority’ to criminally prohibit the possession and sale of chemical agents contained in so-called ‘fake’ herbal marijuana products, commonly sold over the counter under the brand names ‘K2’ and ‘Spice.’ The agency had initially announced its intent to outlaw the chemicals last November.
The specific compounds prohibited under the new DEA ban are: JWH-018, JWH-073, JWH-200, CP-47,497, and cannabicyclohexanol. Each of these compounds is now placed in the same category as heroin under federal law.
“Except as authorized by law, this action makes possessing and selling these chemicals or the products that contain them illegal in the United States,” the DEA stated in a press release. “This emergency action was necessary to prevent an imminent threat to public health and safety.”
The agency says that the federal ban will remain in effect for at least one year while the DEA and the United States Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) “further study whether these chemicals should be permanently controlled.”
The chemicals in question are synthetic cannabinoid agonists. Once ingested, they interact with endogenous cannabinoid receptors to elicit certain physical and euphoric effects associated with the ingestion of marijuana. They are added to inert herbs to temporarily induce euphoria in the user.
Though NORML takes no official position regarding the use or regulation of these synthetic products, NORML Deputy Director Paul Armentano issued the following statement:
“The popularity of these products is a predictable outgrowth of criminal marijuana prohibition. As prohibition is apt to do, it has driven the production of a commodity into the hands of unregulated, unknown dealers, driven up the potency of the commodity, and in doing so created a scenario where the consumer is faced with a potentially greater health risks than they would be had they simply had the legal choice to use the product they actually desired, in this case cannabis.
“Since most manufacturers of these products reside overseas and are not subject to federal laws and regulations, it is unlikely that the DEA’s action – as well as the similar bans in other states – will in any way halt the dissemination, use, or misuse of these products by the public. Most likely, the clamp down will likely only make the situation more dangerous – from both a legal standpoint and from a health standpoint – to the consumer.”
Well, if nothing else, the United States Drug Enforcement Administration is predictable.
DEA says it will make ‘fake pot’ products illegal
via The Fort Worth Star Telegram
[excerpt] Within 30 days, the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration will criminalize the possession and sale of “fake pot” products and the chemicals they contain for at least a year while it considers whether to ban them permanently.
The DEA announced Wednesday that it will temporarily control five chemicals used in products such as “K2″ and “Spice,” as well as the products themselves, according to a press release from the agency.
In 30 days the agency will publish a final notice making the products illegal for at least one year, with the possibility of a six-month extension while the Department of Health and Human Services studies whether the chemicals should be permanently controlled, according to the release.
And from the DEA’s official press release: The United States Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) is using its emergency scheduling authority to temporarily control five chemicals (JWH-018, JWH-073, JWH-200, CP-47,497, and cannabicyclohexanol) used to make “fake pot” products. Except as authorized by law, this action will make possessing and selling these chemicals or the products that contain them illegal in the U.S. for at least one year while the DEA and the United States Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) further study whether these chemicals and products should be permanently controlled.
To date, NORML officially has had little to say regarding this matter. The issue is somewhat removed from NORML’s mission statement — as the organization supports regulations for the adult use, production, and distribution of marijuana — not the retail sale and recreational use of synthetic cannabinoid agonists, which is what these chemicals are.
That said, the growing popularity of products are a predictable outgrowth of criminal marijuana prohibition. As prohibition is apt to do, it has driven the production of a commodity into the hands of unregulated, unknown dealers, driven up the potency of the commodity, and in doing so created a scenario where the consumer is faced with a potentially greater health risks than they would be had they simply had the legal choice to use the product they actually desired, in this case cannabis.
Given that most manufacturers of these products are overseas and not subject to U.S. laws and regulations, it is unlikely that the DEA’s action will in any way halt the dissemination, use, or misuse of these products by the public. Most likely, the DEA’s clamp down will likely only make the situation more dangerous — from both a legal standpoint and from a health standpoint — to the consumer.
I guess the DEA just never learns.
Ryan Grim at Huffington Post has more on the story here.