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April 2004
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The Drug Testing Industry – fertile ground for corruption?

Check out this investigative report by Gwen Filosa in today’s Times Picayune.

For years before his retirement as Orleans Parish district attorney, Harry Connick beat the drum for a Massachusetts company [Psychemedics] that uses hair samples to test people for drug use. He spoke out publicly in favor of testing students’ hair and on occasion escorted its officers to meetings with officials and opinion-shapers in the media. …

In December, Connick was made a Psychemedics board member at an annual stipend of $20,000. Last month the pot was sweetened further when Psychemedics gave Connick stock options for 5,150 shares…

Several private New Orleans schools, such as De La Salle High School, have been testing students for drugs for several years. De La Salle was one of the first schools that Connick helped acquire grant money for drug testing by Psychemedics.

But Orleans Parish school officials scrapped a program that started in two schools in 2002 after many parents expressed a distrust of the tests’ accuracy. Jefferson Parish stepped up to take the grant money Connick had put together for drug testing. The Jefferson program is managed by Connick’s nephew, Jefferson Parish District Attorney Paul Connick.

The article also noted that when he was named to the board, Connick “– never known to by shy with the media — kept the news to himself.”
This points out a fact that often gets neglected in this whole testing issue: Drug Testing has become a huge business. There are thousands of companies, plus drug testing associations and advocacy groups, campaign contributions, and corruption.
1990 drug testing was estimated to be a $300 million industry (Zimmer and Jacobs “The business of drug testing: technological innovation and social control.”). In 2001, Sandard and Poors estimated the industry at $5.9 billion, and it’s been growing exponentially since then.
The recent push by the Drug Czar for drug testing in schools means untold new profits for this industry — all paid for by taxpayers at the expense of education programs. I can’t wait to see how much he earns when he leaves the White House.
The ACLU has also questioned some of the workplace research on increased productivity and lowered absenteeism touted by drug-testing enthusiasts as being scientifically tainted by funding from the drug-testing industry. “My impression, quite frankly, is that it has been the government and the testing industry that have driven this thing, more than the employers,” said Lewis Maltby, director fo the ACLU’s national task force on civil liberties in the workplace.
The article in New Orleans is about one possibly corrupt former district attorney. But that’s just the tip of the iceberg in this industry.

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