Hair Test for Drug Use Needs Improvement

Police Accountability, Racial Justice

Reporting from the frontiers of health and science, STAT recently examined the legal and scientific controversy surrounding hair testing for drug use. As described in the article:

“The hair test cannot distinguish between ingested drugs and environmental exposure,” said Ivan Espinoza-Madrigal, executive director of the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights and Economic Justice.

The hair test has been the subject of state and federal lawsuits against the Boston Police Department. In the state case, the plaintiffs argued that the test is not accurate enough to alone determine drug use. The Massachusetts Appeals Court held that “the risk of a false positive test was great enough to require additional evidence to terminate an officer.”

A separate federal lawsuit contends that hair testing is subject to racial bias. The federal case, brought by the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights, was heard by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the First Circuit in September 2016 and is now awaiting a ruling.

The STAT article is available here: