Reagan's plan for `drug-free America'. Wants $894 million for law enforcement, testing, and treatment programs
Washington — President Reagan is calling for a combination of drug tests and stepped-up federal spending as a means to achieve his vision of a drug-free America. The President unveiled his battle plan yesterday as he sent Congress a package of legislative proposals that calls for spending an additional $894 million for beefed-up law enforcement, research, and drug treatment and education programs.
The President's plan calls for a broad program of drug tests for federal workers, tougher sentences for drug traffickers and users, the death penalty for traffickers who commit murder, limitations on the so-called exclusionary rule, and a proposal to make money-laundering a crime.
If adopted, the package would raise the overall cost of the federal war on drugs to $3.2 billion in the current fiscal year.
The President's proposal comes at a time of heightened public awareness of the drug problem and at a time when policymakers in the White House and Congress are scrambling to seize what has become a major issue in the fall elections.
In the meantime, some observers are warning that a public ``hysteria'' over the drug problem is fostering a crackdown atmosphere that threatens basic civil liberties.
The thrust of the White House program is aimed at holding drug users accountable for their actions and at sparking a nationwide intolerance for narcotics use, administration officials say.
``We seek to create a massive change in national attitudes which ultimately will separate the drugs from the customer -- to take the user away from the supply,'' President Reagan explained in his speech Sunday night.
White House officials say the President's legislative package is similar to the measure that was approved in the House of Representatives last week. But they note that the President opposes measures that would provide for the use of US military personnel in civil law enforcement efforts.
Administration officials said that unlike current congressional proposals, President Reagan's drug strategy includes emphasis on actually detecting illicit drug users and then helping them quit.
The President is hoping to set an example for the country in achieving a drug-free federal work force through the use of mandatory drug tests. Under an executive order signed Monday, the heads of all major agencies throughout the federal government are instructed to develop a drug testing policy and to determine which employees will be required to submit to periodic or random drug tests.
According to the executive order, all persons cleared to handle classified information must submit to urine tests, as well as other employees deemed by agency heads to hold sensitive government positions.
White House officials declined to estimate how many of the 2.8 million federal employees might be subject to such tests, but others have estimated that more than 1 million federal workers may face urine tests. The administration has budgeted $56 million to conduct drug tests in the current fiscal year.
Under the new policy, federal employees who are detected as drug users will be given one opportunity to overcome their drug habit. Officials say if the employees return to drugs and are detected by a subsequent test, they will be fired.
Officials declined to estimate how prevalent the drug problem was among federal workers. But they noted that 12 percent to 23 percent of the American work force is using illicit drugs. Administration officials say that 67 percent of current cocaine users would stop using the drug if they faced the possibility of having to take urine tests.
``This is why we think there will be a major change in thinking [by drug users],'' a White House official says.
Many of the Reagan administration's legislative proposals mirror proposals in the House drug bill approved last week.
For example, the administration supports the death penalty for drug traffickers who intentionally commit murder while engaging in trafficking.
The administration is also pushing for a further limit on the so-called exclusionary rule, which forbids the use of evidence obtained improperly by police. The limits would allow for such evidence to be used in court provided the police officers who obtained it had a good-faith belief that they were acting properly while gaining the evidence.
The White House proposal also calls for measures that would make it easier to deport drug traffickers and pushers to their native countries, and that would allow law enforcement officials to use the proceeds from the confiscated money and property of drug kingpins to fund further narcotics enforcement efforts.