Ronald Reagan picture

Radio Address to the Nation on Drug Abuse

October 06, 1984

My fellow Americans:

This week my opponent unveiled with great fanfare his plan to combat dangerous drugs, a plan comprising what he called "four new initiatives." Well, forgive me, but his so-called new initiatives aren't new. Every one of them is by now an old initiative, begun by us more than 2 1/2 years ago, when we first started the South Florida Task Force. Then, a year later, following the success of the task force, we extended these initiatives nationwide and set up the National Narcotics Border Interdiction System, known as NNBIS.

Consider my opponent's first new initiative: "Create a high-level drug coordinator." Well, perhaps he hasn't heard, but we already have drug interdiction coordination at the highest possible level of government. The Vice President has been in charge of the South Florida Task Force and NNBIS from the start. And under his direction, nearly two dozen Federal agencies have been brought into the war on drugs; many, including the Army, Navy, Air Force, and Marines, are more involved in fighting drugs than ever before. Working with the Coast Guard and civilian law enforcement agencies, the military has contributed directly to the interdiction and seizure of major quantities of marijuana and cocaine in the past 2 years.

The Vice President has worked closely with the Attorney General, who has created 13 new organized crime and drug enforcement task forces. And those task forces are bringing record numbers of indictments against the leaders of drug trafficking.

His second new initiative undertakes "broad international initiatives." Well, we're already working with other governments as no administration before has to stop the flow of drugs into our country. Bolivia and Peru recently began coca plant control programs. Pakistan has reduced its apium—or opium, I should say, poppy cultivation more than 90 percent. And Burma continues to expand its opium eradication effort. Colombia has begun spraying its marijuana crops and in the last year has located and destroyed major cocaine factories.

This past summer the Vice President met with the Presidents of five Latin American countries to discuss further efforts. And, as you saw this past week, expert cooperation between our Justice Department and the Italian Government led to arrests of Mafia leaders in the United States.

My opponent's third new initiative: "Step up American enforcement efforts." Well, someone should tell him that we've included $1.2 billion in the 1985 Federal budget for drug law enforcement—a 75-percent increase over the last budget of his administration.

During his administration, drug enforcement agencies and FBI agents were reduced by 10 percent. In our administration, the Department of Justice has added 1,200 new agents and prosecutors, and we've increased the special agents in customs from 600 to 1,000.

Apparently, he hasn't heard about the increase in radar balloons and Navy and Air Force surveillance flights to track planes attempting to slip across the Gulf of Mexico and the Mexican border, not to mention the Coast Guard, which is moving forward with its improved detection and surveillance program.

Finally, his fourth new initiative: "More State and local support." State and local officials are involved in the drug war as never before. Forty-seven States are now eradicating domestic marijuana. State and local law enforcement officials have expressed their satisfaction with the new high level of information sharing and cooperative efforts with the Federal Government.

At home and abroad we've seen record drug busts and convictions, and we've seen that in each of the last 2 years serious crime has dropped—the first time that's happened in consecutive years since the FBI began keeping statistics.

Let me mention something else, because for all the so-called new initiatives my opponent is proposing—that we've already begun—he did omit one very important one. We're not just increasing our efforts to limit the supply of drugs; we're also trying to limit the demand for drugs. And that's why Nancy's been joining with concerned parents and citizens all across our country to put out the word to young Americans: Stay away from drugs; they hurt and kill.

And we can all be proud of the way our young people have responded. In 1979 one in nine high school seniors used marijuana on a daily basis. By 1983 the number had dropped to 1 in 18—still too high, but a great improvement.

Just as Americans have pulled together to turn around so many other problems we inherited 4 years ago—inflation, record interest rates, taxes, no growth, falling test scores in school, and low morale in our military-so, too, we're coming together as a nation to tackle the drug problem.

So, the question I keep wondering about my opponent is, where's he been?

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

Note: The President spoke at 12:06 p.m. from Camp David, MD.

Ronald Reagan, Radio Address to the Nation on Drug Abuse Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

Simple Search of Our Archives