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Corporations and the Drug War

I've worked at four companies in my short career: three of them required a drug test before my first day of work, a signed document consenting to random drug tests, and an agreement that I understood drug use could lead to the termination of my employment.

Most articles and stories I've seen about the drug war and decriminalization are focused on the political side of the issue. It pits the "morally correct" social conservatives against the "laissez faire" social libertarians. It's obvious what the social right has to gain from keeping drugs illegal - the belief that it will stem the immoral use of them. To what extent these laws have a deterrent effect or stomp over our freedom is debatable, and I'm not here to debate it.

It's easy to overlook the role that drug laws play in Corporate America, or the fact that the biggest and most powerful corporations have a lot to lose if the laws are loosened. Strict drug laws give corporations a legal tool to hedge against legal responsibility for bad things that happen in the workplace.

Think about this: people are at work; something goes wrong and people get hurt. The first response for many corporations is to call for drug tests. If the employees involved test positive, it gets the corporation off the hook for a lot of liability and pushes responsibility for the accident onto those individual employees.

If Congress ever gets serious about changing these laws, it's not unreasonable to expect corporate lobbyists to get involved. The PR machines will spin it as a moral issue, family values, or whatever else they can piggyback off of the Christian right; but their real motivation will be the bottom lines of their income statements. For that matter, anytime corporations can get the government to protect their interests, I'd expect them to fight for it.


Anonymous said…
This line of thinking can apply to most of what transpires with our government. Business interests often trump those of the citizen and will continue to do so while campaigns of career politicians can be privately funded.

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