This afternoon I have a statement to make about the drug abuse problem following which, Dr. Peter Bourne will be available to answer specific questions.
Today I'm sending Congress a message which expresses my strong concern about the crime and sickness and death caused by the abuse of drugs, including barbiturates and alcohol.
The estimated cost of drug abuse in this country is more than $15 billion per year. I'm ordering the Attorney General to concentrate on breaking the links between organized crime and drug traffic, to enhance cooperation among all law enforcement agencies, and to ensure more certain conviction and quick punishment for those who traffic in drugs.
We will not have an effective and united Federal effort against drugs unless we reorganize the current Federal effort now divided among more than 20 different, often competing, noncooperative agencies, on occasion.
Therefore, I'm directing my staff to eliminate this duplication and overlap and also to end the long-standing fragmentation among our international drug enforcement programs and our treatment, rehabilitation, and prevention efforts.
We must also have international cooperation to control the production and transport of dangerous drugs into our country. We are making some progress on this already, in part because of the very good cooperation among the governments of foreign countries.
The influx of heroin from Mexico has been drastically reduced within this last 6-month period. In the Thailand-Burma area, cooperating with us, they have now mounted a very successful anti-drug campaign. I think last week, we had the largest confiscation of heroin on record, about 400 pounds of heroin. And recently, we formed a very good working relationship with the Government of Colombia.
Heroin sold in our streets is now in such short supply that it's only 4.9-percent pure, the lowest quality detected since records have been kept.
We will make further efforts to deal with the problem on an international level by cooperating with law enforcement officials abroad, by sharing treatment knowledge, by backing drug efforts of the United Nations, by helping to find alternate crops for drug-producing countries-particularly in the mountainous areas where heroin poppies are grown-and by supporting the ratification of the Convention on Psychotropic Substances.
In our own country, I'm ordering a study of how we can best control the abuse of barbiturates and other prescription drugs, which cause many deaths, while not interfering with their legitimate medical use.
I supported change in law to end Federal criminal penalties for possession of up to one ounce of marijuana, leaving the States free to adopt whatever laws they wish concerning marijuana. Decriminalization is not legalization. I do not condone any drug abuse, and we'll do everything possible to reduce the serious threat to our society. Federal civil penalties should be continued as a deterrent to the possession and use of marijuana.
Drug research and treatment programs will also be improved to lessen the adverse effect of drugs on the lives of our people. But it's ultimately the strength of the people of our country, of our values and of our society that will determine whether we can be successful in our fight against drug abuse.
The seriousness of this problem has caused us all in the Government, this first 6 months of my own administration, to try to come up with a coherent proposal to the Congress and with administrative action, both within our own country and in our relations with other nations.
The center of this effort, now and in the future, is and will be Dr. Peter Bourne, a man of international reputation, and has been an expert in the control of the production, transport, and treatment of the drug problem. Dr. Bourne is my personal adviser on this subject, and he will now be available to answer your questions about any aspects of the drug problem. Dr. Bourne.