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APPOINTMENT OF STATE DRUG CZAR URGED
2 LAWMAKERS WANT BENNETT-LIKE OFFICIAL TO OVERSEE 10 ENFORCEMENT AGENCIES

SHARE APPOINTMENT OF STATE DRUG CZAR URGED
2 LAWMAKERS WANT BENNETT-LIKE OFFICIAL TO OVERSEE 10 ENFORCEMENT AGENCIES

Utah should have a drug czar that, like the federal government's William Bennett, will coordinate the fight against "the war that is killing our children," state officials say.

Rep. Craig Moody, GOP House majority leader, and Speaker Nolan Karras want the drug czar to coordinate the 10 state agencies that now enforce drug laws and/or run drug prevention programs."I'm told by state officials, whom I just can't name, that we're wasting $2 million to $4 million a year at the state in duplication of services," said Moody. He came up with the idea of a drug czar after investigating drug use in the schools following Deseret News reports of abuse of Robitussin DM, an over-the-counter cold remedy, by teenagers.

Moody thinks the drug czar should be a Cabinet-level position in Gov. Norm Bangerter's administration. Bangerter has agreed to study the idea along with legislators this year, said Bud Scruggs, chief of staff. "We're not yet convinced that we need a new person to coordinate efforts, but we'll look at it."

Moody and Karras will introduce legislation in the 1990 Legislature to create the drug czar position.

"I saw the drug (Robitussin) abuse myself out here in Sandy," Moody said. "My teenage son convinced me that kids were using the drug in his middle school. That's only the surface of drug abuse. We have to act. And a coordinated effort and a drug czar is the best approach."

Just in the schools alone, Moody says there are drug prevention programs run by the Board of Education, Department of Public Safety, PTA and a pharmaceutical group. It's not a question of picking or choosing the best programs but coordinating them.

Law enforcement is also a critical part of the fight.

Interstate 70 in central Utah is a main drug-running corridor in the United States. But Utah Highway Patrol officers know they're catching only a small percentage of the runners. "We need more troopers and better funding," says Moody.

"Legislators can run, but they can't hide from this fight. Parents know the problem. Many are fighting to save their children. No other generation has had this scourge. The parents have been fighting this war alone, and the state doesn't have a lot of solutions. If you haven't been touched by the drug problem, you're lucky.

"I'm serious when I say the drug war is more of a threat to our nation than nuclear war. It's here."