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November 2007
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If only we passed another law…

So I come across this OpEd by Denny Freidenrich with the headline How To Ensure Teen Drivers Are Drug-Free. Now that’s a bold and amazing promise, so I eagerly read on to see how this magic could occur.
It starts out nostalgic:

Before 1967, ubiquitous teen drug use hardly existed. But after the Beatles, Jefferson Airplane, Jimi Hendrix, Janis Joplin and The Doors released their seminal albums later that year, the pharmaceutical floodgates opened wide. For the past 40 years, parents coast to coast have struggled with their sons and daughters smoking pot, popping pills, snorting coke and more.

Ah, yes, it’s all the fault of the hippie music, apparently causing young people to lose the ability to differentiate between substances. And of course, prior to 1967, teens didn’t use drugs — they stuck to alcohol and cigarettes, which are… food?
The OpEd continues on an interesting note…

Since the war on drugs officially began in 1970, tens of thousands of teens have been busted for using drugs. For those unlucky enough to have been caught while in high school, most were expelled in the early days of the drug war. If that wasn’t bad enough, hundreds of teenagers every year for decades have been shipped off to juvenile hall or sentenced to prison for drug possession.
Despite wearing their DARE tee-shirts to elementary school, and knowing virtually everything there is to know about drug use, today’s teens still are hell-bent on getting high.

Hmmm… that’s a pretty good condemnation of the drug war. Clearly it’s been destructive and hasn’t worked.
So what’s this magic solution to ensure drug-free teen drivers?

I believe there should be a federal law governing teen drivers who test positive for drugs.
To their credit, a few forward-thinking state lawmakers have floated similar ideas. However, this problem is national in scope. That’s why Congress needs to enact a law that prohibits teenagers from getting their learner’s permit or qualifying for a driver’s license if they fail a drug test. If that happens, the offending teen must wait another six months before reapplying. If drugs are detected the second time around, the teen must wait a year before reapplying.
Like drivers who are required to have their cars smog-checked, teens would be required to submit a urine sample at designated, secure locations near their homes. Tamper-free, computerized results would then be sent to their state’s Department of Motor Vehicles ( DMV ) database several weeks before the scheduled permit or license exam is to take place. If a teen tests positive for drugs, then he or she would be denied an application and told to reapply in six months.
Why add a heap of test results on a state’s DMV? Because the right of passage from pre-teen to responsible young adult lies right behind the wheel of a car. Driving is an earned privilege, not a constitutional right. One of the best ways a teenager can “earn” the right to drive is to be drug-free.

That’s it? You’re kidding, right? This will ensure drug-free teen drivers? The writer claims to have teens, so apparently what he’s missing is a brain.
If a teenager wants to use drugs and get a driver’s license, all they’d have to do is pass the idiot test: Stop using prior to the urine screening (or switch from pot to harder drugs that clear the system more quickly). Then, urine successfully passed, they could be stoned on the day they take their driver’s test and every day after.
This would do absolutely nothing other than add another federal bureaucracy, add costs and annoyance for parents, subject kids to yet another humiliating instance of being sub-citizen property, and further drive those teens who use drugs into hiding it, particularly from their parents.
Are we running out of drug laws to pass? There are so many idiots out there who seem determined to gain some kind of cred or importance by proposing a drug law. But we’ve passed so many already, and then doubled them and piled them on, and on and on… So now people come up with the most bizarre, idiotic ideas for laws, just to have something new, with the inevitable promise that, while those millions of other drug laws have failed, this one will do the trick.
But there’s another possibility in this case as well, on which I can only speculate. Denny Freidenrich is a bad parent.
He says he subjected his own son to a drug test.

We tested our 15-year-old son for the first time about two months ago. Tearfully, he told us he is one of a handful of teen-agers we know – out of more than 30 we have watched grow up over the years – who never has tried drugs.

Unable to establish a relationship of trust, and on no other suspicion than that other kids use drugs, he had his son tested, and the tearful implied accusation of that lack of trust had to have hurt. So why not have the federal government do the bad parenting for him? That might ease his guilt.
If only we passed another law…

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