"Any random drug testing is going to infringe on privacy," said William Carlson, public policy advocate for the American Civil Liberties Union of Utah.
"It doesn't seem like a wise use of resources in the present economy, besides invading people's privacy," he said. "It could be considered unconstitutional - I haven't seen the details - but more than that, it's overkill."
The nation's deputy drug czar told The Tribune on Friday he had a very different take, and praised the plan as legally sound and likely effective.
"Drug testing is increasing in just about every level, not only in government but also in the private sector," said Scott Burns, deputy director of the Office of National Drug Control Policy. He added that such policies have been found constitutional in many courts.
"It has proven to be an extremely effective deterrent," said Burns, former Iron County, Utah, prosecutor.
In March, the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals unanimously rejected blanket drug testing for all job candidates for a city government in Oregon. The screening must be tied to the potential dangers of drug using workers in particular positions, the court ruled.
"I'm going to decline to comment on what the 9th Circuit says is appropriate," Burns said. "But I would say that, generally speaking, drug testing has been upheld as constitutional and appropriate not only in government but in the private sector and schools as well."
Gov. Jon Huntsman Jr.'s administration is pushing for random drug testing for state employees who handle information such as Social Security numbers and medical information to prevent identity theft.
Officials briefing lawmakers on the plan this week pointed to an allegedly drug-using state employee accused of stealing the identities of dozens of Utah citizens. The former employee, Laura Bustamante, faces a Nov. 3 trial.
Kirk Torgensen, chief deputy attorney general, said his office is carefully crafting the definitions of what constitutes sensitive information, but said that, if done in the "right way" it can withstand legal scrutiny.
"I think that the reasoning is solid and compelling and that the courts, if this is done correctly - that we would be successful in a challenge," he said.
Torgensen said only a narrow group of employees have enough access to steal someone's identity, and only that limited group would be subject to the new policy.
Joe Hatch, a labor attorney and Salt Lake County councilman, argues that negotiations between employees and employers need to take place to foster good relations and a fair use of such drug testing.
" The employer may have a legitimate interest to protect, but it could be a fishing expedition and a way to enforce some kind of social commentary, that they don't like people who smoke marijuana," he said. Marijuana stays in a person's system for days after use.
However, Torgensen said it doesn't matter if the employee used an illicit drug that day or weeks before, "They have a substance abuse problem."
Utah currently allows for random drug testing of state employees who carry firearms, operate vehicles or work in public safety. Testing to other workers requires special cause, such as suspicion of drug use or an on-the-job accident.
Dennis Hammer, deputy director of the Utah Public Employees Association, questions whether the example of a single state employee getting caught amounts to a special need for all employees who handle personal information.
He also worries that random drug testing will invade confidentiality as employees will have to submit a list of medications they are taking.
"I can't tell whether there is a special need for this, but we just want the process to be fair and confidential," Hammer said.