Legality and ethics of mandatory drugs testing

Mandatory drug testing entered American life through two separate historical routes. The first was through the common law system, employing precedents philosophically derived from the idiosyncratic rules governing the “king’s forest” and the “king’s highway”. From these arcane precepts are derived the laws which allow legal authorities to detain and test persons under suspicion of driving under the influence of a psychoactive drug.

The second route was more recently constructed and originated from an incident that occurred in the US Navy. After a plane crashed onto the carrier deck of the USS Nimitz in 1981, killing and injuring dozens of personnel, drug testing was instituted immediately. The results revealed a large substance-abusing cohort within the ranks of enlisted persons and officers. As a result of this single incident, the Secretary of the Navy instituted an intensive drug testing and regulation program. These interventions were then adopted by other branches of the service over a three-year period. From these actions was derived the concept of a “drug-free workplace”. In consultation with his drug-czar, Dr. Carlton Turner, President Ronald Reagan issued Executive Order 12564. In doing so, he instituted mandatory drug-testing for all safety-sensitive executive-level and civil-service Federal employees. This was challenged in the courts by the Natl. Treasury Employees Union. In 1988, this challenge was considered by the US Supreme Court. In order. A similar challenge resulted in the Court extending the drug-free workplace concept to the private sector.¬†These decisions were then incorporated into the White House Drug Control Strategy directive issued by President George H.W. Bush in 1989.


Print Friendly, PDF & Email