Radio Address to the Nation on the Fight Against Illegal Drugs

 

June 25, 1988

 

My fellow Americans:

 

This past week I traveled to Canada for my eighth economic summit with leaders of the industrialized democracies. The summit produced important results. We agreed on a plan to provide debt relief for some of the poorest countries of the world. We moved important agricultural reform negotiations forward. And we rededicated our nations to combating the modern day evils of airplane hijackings, terrorism, and illegal drugs.

 

It's this last matter, the fight against illegal drugs, that I'd like to take a moment to discuss with you this afternoon. This past week's meeting in Canada wasn't the first time the drug problem had been discussed among my summit colleagues. At the 1985 summit in Bonn, we established an expert group to identify areas for enhancing effectiveness and cooperation in fighting the scourge of illegal drugs. The expert group presented its report at our 1986 summit in Tokyo, and the report proved useful in setting our countries on a path of cooperation in combating drug abuse and illicit drug trafficking. Now the summit leaders have supported an initiative for a special group, launched by Vice President Bush and Canadian Prime Minister Mulroney, that would extend and promote the work done by the Bonn summit. This group will propose methods to improve international cooperation in combating production, trafficking, and financing of the drug trade. I'm hopeful this group can identify measures for a major coordinated assault on drugs.

 

But today the battle against drugs extends far beyond the seven industrialized democracies represented in Toronto. Just 1 year ago, 138 nations, members of the United Nations, met in Vienna to participate in the historic International Conference on Drug Abuse and Illicit Trafficking. This conference proved a resounding success in bringing together representatives from around the globe. Each of the participating governments declared its commitment to vigorous action against drug abuse and illicit drug trafficking. Perhaps even more important, the 138 nations adopted a comprehensive outline of activities all nations can undertake to fight illegal drugs. These activities include the reduction of demand for illegal drugs, the suppression of illicit drug production and trafficking, and the treatment and rehabilitation of drug-dependent people.

 

One suggestion coming out of the U.N. Conference was the recommendation for a commemorative day: an International Day Against Drug Abuse and Illicit Trafficking. The U.N. General Assembly then set aside June 26th to serve as this day of observance. Around the world, nations will join the United Nations commemorating the international fight against drugs, and I'm pleased that the United States will be among them. Attorney General Meese, who headed our delegation to the conference in Vienna, will host a ceremony to draw attention to the international day and to reaffirm the commitment of the United States to a drug free America and, yes, a drug free world.

 

Here at home this past week, the White House Conference for a Drug Free America released its report. This document included more than 100 recommendations for combating drug abuse and illicit drug trafficking. We'll be giving these recommendations careful consideration in the days ahead.

 

And there's another important antidrug effort underway here at home. It was on May 18th that I called on -- to use my own words -- ``both Houses of the Congress, both sides of the aisle, to join with my representatives in a special executive-legislative task force to advance America's unified response to the problem of illegal drug use.'' My goal is to combine the expertise of the executive and legislative branches to identify the next steps we should take to stop the illegal use, distribution, and production of drugs and to begin taking these steps on a bipartisan basis. I'm sure you'll agree the drug problem is a national problem that demands national solutions and is too important for us to permit partisan bickering. I was pleased that the House and Senate minority leaders, Bob Dole and Bob Michel, appointed their representatives to the task force, and I urge the Speaker of the House and the majority leader of the Senate to appoint their own representatives quickly so we can get to work. Next week my National Drug Policy Board will recommend specific proposals that would be important to any new drug legislation. Today illegal drug use is down in our high schools. Cocaine and heroin seizures are up. And perhaps most important, attitudes about illegal drugs have changed. But we're working to make our beloved land what we know it ought to be and can be: a truly drug free America.

 

Until next week, thanks for listening, and God bless you.

 

Note: The President spoke at 12:06 p.m. from the Oval Office at the White House.