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Statement by the President Upon Signing Bill Relating to Narcotics Laws Violations.

November 02, 1951

I HAVE today signed H.R. 3490, a bill which amends the penalty provisions applicable to persons convicted of violating certain narcotics laws. I have also today signed an Executive order to establish an Interdepartmental Committee on Narcotics. This Committee will be composed of representatives of the Treasury, State, Defense, Justice, and Agriculture Departments and the Federal Security Agency.

The situation existing with respect to illegal traffic in narcotic drugs and their use is one of grave concern to me. Illicit narcotic peddling has recently risen sharply in volume. Moreover, drug addiction has reached serious proportions, particularly among some of the youth of our Nation. The tragic effects of drug addiction upon the individual, the family, and the community as a whole are only too self-evident.

While the prevention of smuggling and illicit interstate traffic in narcotic drugs and the control of the major sources of supply is primarily the responsibility of the Federal Government, the States and local communities have important enforcement responsibilities in their local spheres with respect to the suppression of illegal narcotic activity. In the latter field, I believe an area exists in which the Federal Government can be of valuable assistance to local enforcement authorities. At the present time, there is no single Federal instrumentality to which an interested local agency can turn for comprehensive information regarding control of narcotic traffic and treatment of drug addiction. In addition, no central group exists for making coordinated studies of new developments relating to narcotic law enforcement.

I believe that the Interdepartmental Committee can do much toward alleviating this situation. By maintaining and disseminating information with respect to illegal traffic in and use of narcotic drugs, the Committee will serve as a clearinghouse of information for enforcement agencies at all levels. Further, the Committee will perform a useful function in keeping under continuous review the problems arising in the administration and enforcement of the narcotics laws. The Committee will also study the problems of prevention and control of drug addiction and of the treatment and rehabilitation of drug addicts.

H.R. 3490 will make the efforts of the Federal Government to curb illicit traffic in drugs far more effective. It will strengthen the enforcement of the narcotics laws by making it impossible for hardened offenders to avoid serving their time in jail.

I am aware of the fact that some objection has been expressed to this act because of the limitations which it imposes on Federal courts in sentencing offenders. Fear has been expressed that this may result in prison sentences for unfortunates who are merely addicts and not engaged in the traffic for their own profit. The Interdepartmental Committee on Narcotics will keep this matter under review and, should it appear that these provisions of the law require amendment, appropriate recommendations to the Congress can be made.

Note: As enacted, H.R. 3490 is Public Law 255, 82d Congress (65 Stat. 767).

On the same day the President issued Executive Order 10302 establishing the Interdepartmental Committee on Narcotics (3 CFR, 1949-1953 Comp., p. 831).

Harry S Truman, Statement by the President Upon Signing Bill Relating to Narcotics Laws Violations. Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project https://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/node/231244

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