Bush Pledges To Reduce Nationwide Drug Use in Next Five Years

By Melanie Arter | July 7, 2008 | 8:20pm EDT

(1st Add: Includes more reaction from the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Law.)

CNSNews.com) - President George W. Bush has a plan to reduce illegal drug use by 10 percent over two years and 25 percent over five years.

"We're putting the fight against drugs in the center of our national agenda," Bush told lawmakers, ambassadors and anti-drug officials at the White House on Tuesday. He said the plan includes tougher law enforcement.

"We've got a problem in this country: Too many people use drugs," Bush said. "This is an individual tragedy, and as a result, it is a social crisis."

White House drug policy director John Walters said the Bush administration's strategy is based on making existing anti-drug programs more efficient and reducing public tolerance for drug use.

"We have to undermine the cynicism that people are always going to use drugs at roughly the same amount that they're using now. That's not true. And my goal is to demonstrate that's not true," Walters said.

Meanwhile, the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws (NORML) blasted the Bush administration's plan, saying for the first time the White House is calling for "compassionate coercion" of millions of American citizens who smoke marijuana responsibly.

"The overwhelming majority of our nation's drug users and drug arrestees are marijuana users, the majority of whom do not need treatment - coerced, compassionate or otherwise," said Keith Stroup, executive director of NORML.

He pointed to the nation's recent "war on tobacco," adding that: "We have significantly reduced the prevalence of tobacco smoking and drunk driving in recent years.

"We have not achieved this by banning the use of alcohol and tobacco, or by targeting and arresting adults who use them responsibly, but through honest educational campaigns. We should apply these same principles to the responsible use of marijuana," Stroup said.

He said that by calling American citizens who have voted in recent years in states like California, Nevada and Arizona "armchair theorists who want to define the problem away and normalize drug use," the White House's Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP) shifts the blame for a failed "war on drugs" to voters and organizations who support reform, instead of the federal government's own policies.NORML also criticized the White House for linking the "war on terrorism" with the "war on drugs" during ads that were aired during the Super Bowl.

"It is patently absurd to suggest that marijuana smokers are in any way supporting terrorism - they are patriots and American citizens, too," said Stroup.

Walters' priorities include: identifying drug users who need treatment but are unlikely to seek it; helping recovering addicts stay clean; disrupting money laundering networks; and gathering better intelligence about drug distribution networks so they can be broken up.

The president's proposed budget for next year includes $19.2 billion in anti-drug spending, 2 percent more than last year's budget. He's asking for $644 million for the Safe and Drug-Free Schools Program, which encourages drug-prevention among young people and $731 million to fight drug trafficking in the Andes.

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