Should politicians be drug tested?

As long as workers are tested for drugs they may do in their own time, should politicians be tested too?


As long as workers are tested for drugs they may do in their own time, should politicians be tested too?

Finnish Prime Minister Sanna Marin volunteered to perform a drug test after a sanctimonious backlash to news she enjoyed herself at a nightclub and at a party with friends.

Dubbed the world’s coolest politician, Marin had the temerity to be recorded dancing and having fun.

“I trust that people understand that leisure time and work time can be separated,” she said last week.

“I wish we lived in a society where my word could be trusted… For my own legal protection — although I consider the demand for a drug test unreasonable — in order to erase such doubts, I have today taken a drug test.”

The test came back negative this week.

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Meanwhile, a new law passed by Chilean legislators in July requires all Members of Parliament to be subjected to drug tests at least twice per 4-year term.

The first batch of 78 names have now been drawn randomly from a ballot, with testing due to begin in the next few days.

Any positive results will be made public, to “raise the standards of transparency in parliamentary work”. Legislators who refuse to take tests could be referred to the house ethics committee.

But should it happen in Aotearoa/New Zealand, if only because workers here may be treated similarly?

At the least, this raises an obvious double standard: politicians have long been associated with alcohol.

There is a bar at Parliament. John Key would skull a beer for the camera. Winnie made deals over a whiskey. Muldoon was drunk in charge of the country.

But no, of course they shouldn’t be tested. It would be ridiculous to force anyone to pee in a cup, even if it would be titillating to know what they’re on (or should be on).

New Zealand law does not actually authorise or regulate testing employees for illicit drugs.

In the absence of any clear statute, our guiding precedent court case is Air New Zealand v EPMU (back when Andrew Little was running the union).

The Supreme Court ruled in 2004 that random testing was unlawful, and could only be justified in extreme safety situations, which in that case the court pointed out did not include Air New Zealand’s pilots or engineers.

Since then the piss testing industry, led by former cops and for-profit testing labs, has spread fear and concocted a story that:

(a) urine testing is required,

(b) urine testing detects any impairment, and

(c) urine testing makes workplaces safer.

None of these things are true.

The Health and Safety at Work Act 2015 says the person in charge of the workplace must reduce risks “so far as is reasonably practicable”.

But urine tests only look for the presence of the inactive ‘carboxy’ metabolite of cannabis, called THC-COOH. They do not look for THC, which is present when a person is high.

By looking for the inactive metabolite, they can only ever show past use and cannot ever detect use on the job.

The past use of cannabis – as identified by the presence of the inert THC metabolite on a standard urine test – is not associated with increased workplace accidents.

Detection times can also be influenced by stress and diet, and common medications can trigger false positives – forcing workers to prove their innocence.

You won’t see company directors or many office workers made to piss in a jar.

They will rightfully be thinking that, as long as they’re not harming other people, what people do in their own time is entirely up to them.

Of course, people of colour and those in blue collar jobs aren’t treated quite the same, and are far more likely to be tested.

But I think an employer who makes their workers expose themselves and seizes their bodily fluids for analysis could be a breach of the Bill of Rights, Privacy Act and Human Rights Act.

And for those workplaces where safety is a genuine issue, relying on piss testing in the knowledge it does not detect impairment probably breaches the good faith obligations of the Act, and is just a shit thing to do.

Yet it happens anyway.

Successive governments have allowed the piss-testing grey area to pass for safety.

It is something that happens to other people, not to them.

As long as lawmakers allow workers to be subjected to demeaning, intrusive demands from their overlords with their body fluids taken and searched for evidence against them, then perhaps our politicians should justify why they shouldn’t be treated the same.

Personally, I don’t think anyone should be subjected to workplace urine testing.

But our elected representatives should know what other people are put through, and make sure employers don’t take the piss.

Chris Fowlie is the president of the National Organisation for the Reform of Marijuana Laws NZ Inc; developer of the CHOISE model for cannabis social equity; CEO of Zeacann Limited, a cannabis science company; co-founder of the New Zealand Medical Cannabis Council; co-founder of The Hempstore Aotearoa; resident expert for Marijuana Media on 95bFM; cannabis blogger for The Daily Blog, and court-recognised independent expert witness for cannabis. The opinions expressed here are his own.


  1. Seymour talks like he’s certainly on something and “happy” Chris Bishop must be on something, so yes, politicians should be tested.

  2. Yes test them! Then they too can experience the degrading experience of pissing in jars to keep your employment, and the invasion into personal life it brings.

  3. Nah, no one should be drug tested. How well you do your job should be measured in other ways. Demonizing drug users is old school crap. If someone has addiction issues it becomes apparent quite quickly. Micro dosing on the other hand should be encouraged. Have a micro mushy dose everyone, happy days!

    • Make everything legal then you don’t have too. But until that day comes………yeah, they too should get a taste of their medicine and hypocrisy.
      Fungus, they are all edible, some only once. Something to keep in mind before experimenting.

    • after work do what you want but I don’t want pollies passing legislation on a meth binge…call me old school but there ya go.

  4. Yes, and every single government employee too, starting with the Drones at Winz, and the PR people and such in Parliament.
    Every single one of them. And if they get found they have used, immediate dismissal as it would happen with any Joe / Jane Kiwiberry.

  5. Saliva tests are now certified and more useful in detecting current rather than historic use. A problem is that there is a test kit industry that puts pressure on employers to use piss tests to maintain their sales targets.

    My partner is a union organiser in the private sector and comes across this regularly. Managements thinking they are doing the right thing for workplace safety but really with little idea of the science of urine vs. saliva testing. Unions and union members agree to testing for various reasons that I won’t go into here, but they now acknowledge the possibility of false positives and all the rest.

    It is patently unfair to test workers on a random basis, rather than an incident or reasonable cause basis, which essentially will only reveal recreational out of work time use.

  6. Thanks for a great article Chris.
    You raise a very interesting point indeed.
    Well stated and glad you brought up.

  7. Drug testing politicians? Definitely. Absolutely. And if there’s no evidence of drugs then lets never, ever let the bastards anywhere near our politics or our money.

  8. Dirty little drunken Piggy. When he was elected I remember my father mumbling ” Well, that’s the end of New Zealand.”

    • I remember that night and I watched him thinking he does not look well and my Mother said he was as pissed as a fiddlers cat and that’s who is supposed to be governing the country ! , and later when the PM insisted on driving home Don McKinnon made sure the tires on his car were all flat and only when Muldoon saw this for himself he gave up on the idea.

    • A loose goose zertainly, more a symptom than a cause — anchored to the bottom by our thirties agreement for the people. Why the Welfare State is considered to have ended in Nineteen Eighty-Four. With Labour.

    • After 1975 election I thought out loud, Nothing good will come from this,. I has said it since and I was right.

  9. Should make a comment on the actual post too…

    No, MPs should not be randomly tested in my view, nor should any other person without reasonable cause of impairment, or following an incident of some kind, usually involving damage, injury etc.

    • @ TM.
      I did but it wasn’t Posted.
      I’ll try again.
      In response to @ Nathan.
      Now. Any other wise and insightful suggestions?
      @ N.
      Well, there’s that. But what I believe would be far more ‘interesting’ would be to follow a farmer-dollar from AFTER the farm gate, silo and shed to make it’s loooooooooooooooong and convoluted journey back to Remuera. The little dollar would wave good by to the deliberately and terminally indebted farmer to a whole new and fancy urban lifestyle. It’d go through the producer boards then out the back door to politicians, exporters, sundry lenders and marketeers, the stock market, the banksters, grifters and scammers including the IRD, [ Spare a quick thought for Frothy Goff the gap toothed GST peddler. But I bet you’re ok phil. You’ll be GST registered unlike wage earners.] then it’d get excreted out the arse holes of retail bankstering, most of whom are now foreign owned and showing us multiples of billions of dollars in net profits going off-shore. I bet that wee dollar could tell a story about who’s pockets it now resides within. Maybe, as an example, graham hart’s pockets could tell a story or two. Or perhaps micky fay, or david richwhite? Or Alan Gibb or SIR jimmy wattie, or fletcher holdings which includes The Rural Bank etc, etc.
      If we’re feeding forty million people and there’s only 5.2 million of us then where’s all those lost and lonely little dollars earned from the POST FARM GATE sales of farmerie stuff and things? And then there’s wool and trees and fushes and everything. And we’re still financially fucked. ( So they keep telling us.I repeat. So. They. Keep. Telling. Us. Let that sink in. Our wonderful politicians work so, soooo tewibly hard to keep us safe from the ravages of them damn foreign nations who will soon literally kill for our farmers foods and wool. Banksters!? Be still, your beating little black hearts, aye boys? ) That little dollar… Cute little dollar. It went away all innocent and misty eyed down that dusty country road and came back a gangster. A used and abused killer with no conscience and a thirst for the blood sweat and tears of those most at risk who are, ironically, those least to blame for our little dollars’ horrific, life changing experiences.
      Our reality is so far from the imaginations of you mere mortals that you won’t believe the next bit of my story.
      You non farmerie people could easily be paid a living wage to simply be. You’d not need to trudge to your logical fallacy ‘job’. You’d not need to panic every time a bill for essential services like electricity or data came in.You could simply be… We have a lot of money. And we have an absolute wealth, almost beyond imagination of essential life sustaining resources and there’s far more of it than we could ever eat or generally consume. Unfortunately, most of you have been brainwashed with carbolic soap into believing a false narrative so that those who took that little baby dollar and sold it on to the slave traders in those big shiny bankster buildings in the middle of every town and city in Aotearoa/ New Zealand get clean away with your lives which could be better lived.
      The hardship you’re enduring right now? It’s as fake as the banksters and producer boards are. You’re all being fucked without the kissing. But don’t take my word for it. Go and ask any farmer what they get for their produce, deduct their costs, then compare what’s left with what it sells for off-shore. Then get out the calculator and work out the difference between what farmers get and what you pay for the food you must eat.
      Try this film. It’s an oldie but a goodie if I remember correctly.
      ’Twenty Bucks.’
      P.S. Tourists. Please do not eat the tourists. Yes. They are edible, but please do not. Unless you’re broke-as and stuck in a snow drift in your car with your partner and the kids. Then, it’d be ok so dig in! I hear middle class, office-worker bum cheeks are delish’. Garlic, freshly ground black pepper, lemon juice… Even if you just ate one cheek… They’d probably never even miss it. It might become chique` to be a mono cheek. Cooler than going back home with a tattoo. Can fart sideways?

  10. It is unfair to test people for drugs unless they are working in an industry where impairment by drugs will affect their ability to work safely; it is unfair to test anyone for cannabis sativa even if the employer has reasonable grounds to do so, unless the individual is not functioning properly because they are severely affected by the drug; and it is unfair to link drug use to pay, or to hold those in influential positions to a stricter account or higher standard than the rest of the people.

    • dan, name a job where being stoned at work will not affect performance….DJ maybe.

      and yup those in influential positions are held to a higher standard because ‘influential position’, influential being the keyword

  11. And one last thing. And ENTIRELY OFF-TOPIC so WARNING! WARNING ! WARNING! DANGER ! DANGER ! DANGER ! For all you little daisies who get miffed easily.
    This today from Russell Brand. You got kids? You feed them Gerber baby food? Yes!
    Then watch this.
    “A recent study apparently shows 95% of pre-packaged baby food was contaminated with harmful & toxic heavy metals. Surely the FDA & the Government will step in to further regulate baby food? Or is there more behind this?”
    Baby Food
    Gerber is the #1 choice of today’s parents.
    Gerber baby food purees have the fruits and
    veggies your baby loves.
    Gerber. Aaaawwwww….. lovely.

    • american food item is full of chemicals, well quelle surprise, there’s a whole range of 3rd rate toxic american foods that can’t be imported into the EU.

    • Reading Russell Brand is dangerous to the health. A loquacious fool. The ‘we don’t know nothing but we know dis’ people.

    • Think we may have had that but nevertheless I agree but we would end up with insufficient people to make up a Labour or Green Party.

    • Judging by National and ACTs narcissists traits, their budget must be $5000!
      Out of that wretched mob only Shane Reti looks a teetotaller and would be the only right wing poli left in the chamber.

      • I would consider all politicians to be narcissists, none of them feel guilty for what they do, thats left and right.
        And like Bob I wasnt aware there was a link between alcohol use and narcissim

  12. Those who instigated the attacks on Sanna Marin and supported them should have been drug tested. And brain tested.

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