THE BLOG

If NORML Doesn't Fight Workplace Urine Testing for Legal Pot, Who Will?

01/08/2014 09:16 am ET | Updated Mar 10, 2014

I have to rant a little on this. I just watched Allen St. Pierre of NORML express that I somehow signed a social contract with my employer that gives them the right to ask for my pee as a determinant of my quality as an employee and my right to work.

Fortunately, I work for myself. However, I am left wondering: if NORML isn't going to be the organization that proudly stands up for the rights of cannabis consumers, who will?

Yes, some employers are testing for tobacco. That's not right, either. What's next, testing for blood sugar levels? Cholesterol? Genetic abnormalities? Is this America or Gattaca? Yes, it's politically tricky territory to not seem to endorse the mythical stoned pilot or bus driver -- that's when you deflect to how do we not have drunk pilots and bus drivers crashing all the time? Who is going to stand up against this drug testing/rehab complex, so greatly funded by the easily-detected marijuana and its compliant and employable users, if not NORML?

So much of this Crossfire program couched marijuana in the frames of something dangerous that needs to be controlled, that we are only legalizing marijuana because the alternative is so much worse. So many of the Project SAM talking points were left unaddressed or implicitly or explicitly agreed to.

In particular, Van Jones' question about morality and how would we dissuade adults from using marijuana if it's not against the law. That presumes government should be dissuading adults from their choice of marijuana, because if it did not... what is it again that happens? Apparently, whatever imagined harms Patrick Kennedy has floated, like that 8-point IQ drop (not even bothering to refer that to chronic adolescent, not adult, use) and pot shops on every corner in Harlem and Watts and Chicago's South Side and East St. Louis and Washington DC (the Newt/Van-free parts) and every black and Latino neighborhood.

Marijuana is a choice some adults make. If they're choosing it over alcohol, prescriptions, and street drugs, they're helping, not harming, society and themselves. Government should discourage irresponsible use -- I'm fine with don't toke and drive campaigns, weed's not for kids campaigns, hey boomers today's weed is a lot stronger campaigns, even pot can exacerbate certain mental illnesses campaigns.

But dissuading marijuana use altogether? When I see the gov't "Don't drink alcohol" commercial instead of "Drink responsibly," then that makes sense to me. But otherwise, it seems gov't and society are neutral to approving of responsible alcohol use.

It's very simple. Marijuana users deserve equal rights with alcohol drinkers and cigarette smokers. Marijuana alters the mind, so some of what applies to alcohol applies. Marijuana causes smoke, which annoys some, so some of what applies to cigarettes applies. In other words, marijuana is a normal choice an adult can make... isn't that what NORML's all about?

I write this from a position of love. Allen St. Pierre was my boss and was very good to me, despite how our business relationship concluded. I owe everything I'm doing to various NORML volunteers and staff over the past decade. But there was a compelling moment that made me dedicate my life to exposing the crimes against humanity and nature encompassed in banning this plant and caging its users. It was the moment I stood shirtless in a drug test clinic while a woman with no medical credentials shaved off my chest and armpit hair to collect samples to determine if I was qualified to do the job I'd been doing for the past two years and gotten outstanding reviews for. When the marijuana metabolites in my hair declared me ineligible, I lost that job and, essentially, my corporate career.

Only then, in desperation, did I start down this path, first volunteering about 20 hours a week for Oregon NORML. Later I was hired by National NORML. Now, I run a 24-hour marijuana radio and podcasting network, 420RADIO.org. And every day since I stood in shirtless and shaved in a building named after hemp farmer Thomas Jefferson, I put on the shirts and ties I'd bought for my lost $70,000/year cushy benefits job and use the training and talents I'd honed in information technology and corporate training to NORML's mission. Even now when I don't receive a dime from NORML in salary -- just the in-kind donations of attendance to cover their events and run their videos -- I remain a steadfast supporter and promoter.

But I need to know that NORML thinks what happened to me in the Jefferson Bldg was wrong, immoral, discriminatory, and not a "social contract we signed with our employers". This is a public relations disaster in the cannabis community akin to saying medical marijuana is a fraud and a sham, no matter what context it was delivered in.

It's 2014. We've got 58 percent public support. It's time to shift from "prohibition is bad" to "responsible marijuana use is normal." Please, NORML, don't let us down.