It’s a confusing time for drug testing. On the one hand, you have overwhelming support across the country in favor of marijuana legalization. But this is all happening at a state level while the Attorney General rails against cannabis like it’s a holy crusade, demonizing it without substance. Then we have the undeniable crisis from a raging opioid epidemic (an epidemic that cannabis legalization has been shown to effectively treat, but I digress). On the one hand, accurate drug testing can help to keep people safe. On the other, it can be exploited to push archaic agendas that keep us in the dark ages. Therefore, the move to ban synthetic urine in a number of states is a double-edged sword.
The Genesis of Synthetic Urine
It feels like synthetic urine kits have been around forever. In reality, the 19th
century chemist Friedrich Wöhler accidentally invented faux urine while trying to create ammonium cyanate. Of course, this was long before employers were sending prospective hires to drug testing labs. Still, people have been trying to cheat drug tests for decades whether they’re using specifically designed cleanses, herbal concoctions or synthetic urine. Using fake urine doesn’t guarantee a user will successfully clear a drug test but can greatly increase chances if the instructions are followed precisely. This includes warming the solution to 98°F immediately prior to providing the lab sample. While this may seem tricky, many brands actually provide easily concealable heating pads and temperature strips for accuracy. Quality synthetic urine kits provide a product that contains urea, creatinine, and other ingredients that effectively mimic the genuine article.
Drug Testing Reaches Far Beyond Cannabis
Often, drug testing is synonymous with uptight employers stuck on old school views linking marijuana to unproductivity but there is actually a bit more to the issue. The typical drug test covers not only cannabis but also PCP, cocaine, amphetamines and, yes, opioids. Some drug tests are even more comprehensive, taking into account ecstasy as well as a host of popular prescription painkillers. It’s unfortunate that cannabis is thrown under the same umbrella as PCP and opioids but this owes a lot to federal scheduling rules. Many employers who actually have no personal issue with cannabis are still bound to carry out these strict drug testing procedures to show compliance to federal regulations. There are also serious safety issues to consider. For example, you don’t want someone on PCP operating a forklift or driving a semi.
Two Sides to the Proposed Synthetic Urine Ban
Safety was a major factor in New Hampshire’s and Indiana’s decisions to ban synthetic urine kits in 2017. Now, 18 other states are lined up to follow suit. Mississippi recently tried to pass a ban on the sale of synthetic urine kits but the bill never cleared the Senate. It’s an admittedly tricky situation. On the one hand, you have users of truly hazardous substances tricking the system and putting themselves and others at great risk as a result. On the other hand, you are tying a plant with significantly lower risks and no fatalities to the same tests with the same consequences. How is a plant shown through several studies to have properties deemed medically beneficial being regarded on the same level as heroin, cocaine or crack? Parental rights, parole and gainful employment could all be called into question through a failed drug test stemming from a person turning to medical marijuana for pain relief as opposed to highly addictive opioids. For some people, the ban on synthetic urine is a simple choice. Yet, ignoring the complexities is deeply lacking in compassion.
Alternate Methods of Testing
Some scientists want to move away from urine testing altogether and instead rely on hair or blood samples to deliver assessments while other techs have floated the idea of having a variety of tests in play so the applicant doesn’t know precisely how the results will be gathered; samples of hair, blood, or urine. However, hair testing has its own pitfalls. African American law enforcement officers in Boston recently challenged hair testing in court, pointing to studies that showed a larger amount of false-positives linked to the quality of African American hair. Using hair testing has a built-in racial bias.
Other Applications of Synthetic Urine
Many have also argued that there is no legal reason to have synthetic urine kits available. But faux urine is actually used in applications beyond cheating a drug test including testing diapers and therapeutic purposes. While there is no official scientific support for the medical benefits of urea, urine therapy has a significant following that finds value in the liquid for health and cosmetic purposes. This includes consumption and topical application. Some proponents of urine therapy even believe it can treat cancer. While many subscribers to urine therapy are content to use their own urine, some feel they can gain the same benefits by using synthetic urine kits.
While the federal legalization of cannabis would make the banning of synthetic urine much more palatable, that doesn’t seem to be coming up anytime soon. With a handful of states that have already banned the solution and likely to be a lot more on the way, it seems that synthetic urine kits will be off the shelves long before cannabis is on the shelves with federal approval. It’s just one more reason to make sure that lawmakers know your stance on legalized cannabis.