A bill (SB 518) amending drug testing laws to specifically establish standards and procedures regarding the use of hair specimens in drug testing has become law in Florida. The measure passed without the governor's signature and makes Florida the first state in the nation to explicitly address and endorse the use of hair samples to test for illegal drug use.
Proponents of the measure argue that the testing procedure offers significant advantages over urinalysis. Specifically, backers of the procedure maintain that hair testing gives employers a longer window of detection -- commonly allowing employers to determine drug use that took place several months earlier. Proponents also maintain that hair tests are much more difficult to beat than is urinalysis.
However, critics of the use of hair specimens in drug testing assert that the procedure has major flaws. For one, recent studies indicate that the hair of African-American males may collect nearly eight times as much drugs as either female African-Americans or Caucasians. These findings indicate the potential for racial and sexual bias in hair testing, critics warn. In addition, hair testing remains a new technology that many feel is still in need of further scientific evaluation. "Hair analysis for the presence of drugs is unproven [and] unsupported by scientific literature or controlled trials," said Food and Drug Administration (FDA) spokeswoman Sharon Snider in a 1995 Providence Journal interview.
Despite the procedures recent recognition in Florida, hair testing on a national basis has yet to receive the same level of technical and legal acceptance that has been accorded to urinalysis drug testing and many courts will not accept the findings of hair testing alone as a positive indication of drug use.
For more information on hair testing, please contact Allen St. Pierre of NORML @ (202) 483-5500.