7 Pot "hot spots" Light Up State Data released by the nation's drug czar are based on positive tests for marijuana in the workplace. Aspen and Crested Butte had the highest positive test rates. Dave Curtin | Denver Post | 05/02/06 Seven areas in Colorado exceed the national average for positive workplace marijuana tests, federal drug czar John Walters said Monday. Colorado's "hot spots," according to Walters, include three counties in metro Denver, the Western Slope and parts of the southeast, southwest and northwest corners of the state. All had positive workplace tests for marijuana exceeding 3 percent. The area including Aspen and Crested Butte had the highest positive test rate, 3.92 percent. The national average is 2.8 percent, Walters said. "This data shows us where to put resources for treatment," said Walters, director of the Office of National Drug Control Policy. The seven hot spots include all or parts of 32 Colorado urban and rural counties. There are many reasons for the results, said Janet Wood, director of behavioral health services for the Colorado Department of Human Services. The Interstate 25 and I-70 corridors are transportation hubs for incoming marijuana, and marijuana is available in rural areas of the state where the plant is cultivated undetected, said Wood. "We also have a frontier spirit in Colorado of 'Leave me alone and mind your own business,' so it goes undetected and is passed down from generation to generation," Wood said. "And we have a younger citizenry than other parts of the country, and college-age folks are a high-risk population." The identified areas include Colorado ski towns and most college towns. "The heaviest drug users are 18 to 25, and ski towns and college towns are heavy with that demographic," said David Murray, a policy analyst in the federal drug office. The data were gleaned from drug testing for prehiring, federally sensitive workforces such as at nuclear plants, pilots and transportation workers, employee testing for suspicion or cause, and random testing, said Murray. The drug tests were conducted by Quest Diagnostics Inc., a private company that is the U.S. leader in workforce drug testing, he said. "It may not capture the exact temperature of the whole population, but it does tell us if a particular substance is increasing or decreasing in a particular area," Murray said. Workplace drug testing serves as a deterrent for employees who decide drug use isn't worth losing their job, he said. "I think the tests are preventive. People grow up and say, 'You know, I like this job and I have a family, and I don't want to fool around with dope on Saturday night."' Mason Tvert, campaign director of SAFER - Safer Alternative for Enjoyable Recreation - said the report was issued "to justify spending taxpayer dollars to travel to Colorado to plot against our upcoming statewide initiative with state leaders." SAFER, which spearheaded a successful Denver initiative to legalize possession of small amounts of marijuana, is trying to get a similar measure on November's ballot. Staff writer Dave Curtin can be reached at 303-820-1276 or firstname.lastname@example.org.