The Post-Drug War World
In what I think is an overly-pessimistic take on the United States after the War on Drugs, Walter Russell Mead makes a pretty interesting point about a possible shift from legal repercussions to private anti-drug sanctions:
Any change in drug policy is likely to disappoint the Stoner Lobby; the decriminalization of drugs is almost certain to lead to tougher non-criminal sanctions against their use. Marijuana may well get a pass, but other drugs will not. If criminal sanctions disappear, drug tests are likely to proliferate. You won’t be able to work in health care or any of the professions if you test positive for most drugs; likely you won’t be able to enroll in many colleges, receive government benefits (including financial aid) or teach.
Any new policy on drugs is likely to be a bit like shifting immigration control from the borders to the workplace. Rather than building high walls along the borders, the Obama administration wants to attack illegal immigration on the demand side: by preventing employers from hiring illegals and punishing them if they fail to get adequate documents for their employees. Modified drug laws might work that way: while the sale and use of drugs might be legal, employers would have the right and in many cases the obligation to monitor their employees and fire those who fail drug tests. Otherwise they would be exposed to massive lawsuits for negligence (you let a crack addict manage my portfolio/treat my cancer/teach my kid), or face government sanctions. Basically, the country would take the position drug use is tolerated but not accepted: that you cannot attend a college, hold a good job, work for the government in any capacity or hold public office if you test positive for certain drugs. I would not be surprised to find politicians pushing to extend the reach of mandatory testing. If athletes must pass drug tests, perhaps actors should have to pass them as well — and a positive drug test would void an employment contract.
Tests might be reported to college admission offices and to credit and insurance companies; such information is relevant to their business. Somebody who tests positive for cocaine probably should pay higher car insurance rates than someone who doesn’t, and a recent history of heroin use does not bode well for academic success.