Anti-drug legislation rising in Legislature

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Capital News Service 

LANSING — Legislators have introduced bills that would, if passed, outlaw the sale of synthetic urine and ban billboard marijuana ads. 

The Senate has voted to ban the sale of synthetic urine and other products used to falsify drug tests. 

Synthetic urine is water mixed with additives such as creatinine, salts, uric acid and yellow coloring to replicate human urine, according to Quest Diagnostics, a New Jersey-based clinical laboratory that provides drug testing for employers across the country. 

The bill, introduced by Sen. Curt VanderWall, R-Ludington, passed the Senate 33-1. It’s pending in the House.

“There is no legitimate use for these products other than to cheat on alcohol or drug screening tests and, therefore, they should not be available on the marketplace,” VanderWall said. 

Sen. Jeff Irwin, D-Ann Arbor, was the only senator to vote against the bill.

Despite legal recreational use of marijuana in the state, businesses can legally conduct drug screenings for employees or during the hiring process. 

The bill follows a rise in drug use and substance use disorders caused by the pandemic, according to the American Psychological Association. 

“I don’t really have an objection to them banning synthetic urine, but physical tests, I believe, are the wrong method to determine whether people are impaired at work,” said Matthew Abel, the executive director of the Michigan chapter of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws.

These “physical tests” —  such as urine, oral and hair tests — measure the blood-plasma concentrations of THC, similarly to the blood alcohol content of an alcohol breathalyzer test. THC is the principal psychoactive compound in cannabis that produces a high sensation.

The difference, however, is that blood-plasma concentrations of THC are an indicator of exposure, not impairment, according to a 2019 report from the Michigan Impaired Driving Commission. 

That’s due to the varying ways THC is consumed and processed by the body. People with a higher tolerance or body fat percentage, for example, could have higher levels of the drug in their system, but be fully functional. 

“The people who keep focusing on blood, I think, are using that as a smokescreen,” Abel said. “If they really cared whether people are impaired or not, they would test whether people are impaired.”

Abel, a Detroit attorney and founder of Cannabis Counsel, a law firm, suggests the use of Druid — a video game-like app that tests impairment and motor function. 

The system requires a sober, baseline test and can be readministered by an employer any time after to test possible impairments and delayed reaction times from drugs, alcohol or even injury.

“If someone is at a desk, what do we care if they’re smoking weed on the weekends?” Abel said. “And if they’re driving a truck, what do we care as long as they’re clean and sober while at work?” 

Bills have also been introduced by Reps. Mary Whiteford, R-Casco Township, and Abdullah Hammoud, D-Dearborn, to ban the advertisement of medical and recreational marijuana sales on billboards. 

“We can’t have tobacco on billboards, so why can we have marijuana?” Whiteford said. 

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