Lock your windows, shut your doors – and consider donning a winter cap: Uncle Sam may be coming for your hair soon. A new proposal by the US Department of Health and Human Services suggests that managers and HR departments across the federal government use hair samples to drug test their employees, and the private sector often follows the lead of the federal government.
This rule change, which was recently published in the Federal Register, would allow government agencies to collect and test hair samples as part of pre-employment and random drug screenings.
“Hair testing potentially offers several benefits when compared to urine, including directly observed collections, ease of transport and storage, increased specimen stability, and a longer window of drug detection,” according to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration.
Not only is hair follicle testing discriminatory against people of color due to its sensitivity to melanin and darker hair, it gives no indication of someone being impaired on the job.. Rep. Barbara Lee
Testing hair can result in disparate results from person to person, based on hair color, skin color, and other variables such as high humidity or second-hand environmental exposure, according to Paul Armentano, the Deputy Director of the National Organization for Reform of Marijuana Laws (NORML) criticized the proposal.
“Given the heightened awareness surrounding the need for social and racial equity, the idea of proposing that will inherently deny more people of color opportunities than it would others who have engaged in exactly the same activities is beyond tone deaf and counterproductive,” Aremntano said.
If the plan to test hair follicles is adopted, HHS predicts it will be more eight-times more expensive than urinalysis and that it will be utilized in “approximately one percent of the 275,000 specimens tested per year.”
In an interview with Marijuana Moment, Representative Barbara Lee (D-CA) accused these new drug testing guidelines of being shameful.
“Not only is hair follicle testing discriminatory against people of color due to its sensitivity to melanin and darker hair, it gives no indication of someone being impaired on the job,” Lee, a co-chair of the Congressional Cannabis Caucus, said. “This just goes to show how far behind the federal government is on cannabis policy.”
The public can comment on the proposal plan here, until November 9, 2020.