Czar: Drug test students |

Czar: Drug test students

William Ferchland, Tribune staff writer

Jim Grant/Tahoe Daily Tribune CAMP Commander Val Jimenez, left, looks on as John Walters, the Director of National Drug Control Policy speaks on the dangers that illegal drugs pose to young people in the United States.

Youths are more dependent on marijuana than cigarettes or alcohol, provoking the White House drug czar to call for drug testing at middle and high schools.

John Walters, director of the Office of National Drug Control Policy, made the statement during a keynote speech at a conference attended by members of the Campaign Against Marijuana Planting at Embassy Suites on Tuesday night.

Walters said school drug testing would not be used to punish children, but the results can be used for rehabilitation and education.

Drug testing is used for Fortune 500 executives, pilots and law enforcement. It will work for teenagers, Walters told the dinner crowd of about 240.

Referencing a short PowerPoint presentation, Walters said marijuana use among 12- to 17-year-olds is higher than any other drug. When surveyed, 42 percent of the nation’s youth in that age range said they had used marijuana the prior month, he said.

“Marijuana is the largest need for treatment needs,” he said. “Not only is it a gateway, but a dead end for young people.”

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The drug czar, appointed in December 2001 by President Bush, said advertisements will continue about the dangers of drug use. Television ads after the September 2001 terrorist attacks focused on revenues from marijuana having aided anti-American efforts.

“Those who were using hated those ads,” Walters said. “Those who suffered, especially our neighbors in Mexico and Colombia, said it was about time.”

The drug czar did not mention that drug offenders should serve time for their crime. When he was appointed, Walters was known for his stance that users should receive jail sentences rather than treatment.

Walters was unavailable for comment afterward. He was whisked away by Secret Service to catch a flight back to Washington, D.C.

The crowd was full of military officials, undercover agents with goatees and long hair and clean-cut law enforcement officers. CAMP is a multi-agency task force that concentrates on the eradication of marijuana farms on California land.

It comprises 70 local, state and federal organizations. This year a record 466,054 plants were seized, breaking the goal of 352,000. The wholesale value was estimated at $1.9 billion. Seventy-five percent of the seized crop was being grown on public land.

Before the event Val Jimenez, CAMP director, said El Dorado County is not a major location for outdoor cultivation, but added, the “potential is there, no doubt.”

Outdoor planting at South Shore is relatively minuscule. The elevation and winter temperatures make it a foolish endeavor.

Chris Elliott, the task force commander for SLEDNET, South Shore’s drug enforcement agency, said most growing occurs indoors. The foothills of El Dorado County are more likely to have outdoor marijuana gardens, although figures released by the California attorney general’s office did not include El Dorado in a 2003 list of plant seizures by county.

A spokeswoman for Attorney General Bill Lockyer said if any plants were seized by CAMP officials this year in El Dorado County, the number was insignificant.

– E-mail William Ferchland at