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Bennett Says 'No' to Legal Drug Use

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WASHINGTON--Secretary of Education William J. Bennett last week criticized recent calls for the legalization of drug use as a dangerous threat to anti-abuse efforts.

Legalization might reduce drug-related crime, as proponents argue, Mr. Bennett said, but "the primary and most obvious result of the legalization of drugs would be an increase in the use of drugs--and an increase in the damage.''

Speaking at the Education Department's second conference on drug-free schools, Mr. Bennett said drugs "are a profound threat to the physical well-being of our people, to their psychological well-being and motivation, to their control of their passions and their desires, and to their willingness to lead productive, purposeful lives.''

Noting that alcohol is also a problem for many teen-agers, Mr. Bennett said legalizing drugs would send the wrong message to the majority of young people who do not use them, even if access were restricted to adults.

"If we now legalize drugs, we should not deceive ourselves that education and treatment programs will then be sufficiently effective to minimize drug use and its consequences,'' Mr. Bennett added. "Those programs would be mortally wounded.''

He said that a majority of users fail to complete treatment programs, that many who complete them still return to drug use, and that effective programs "rely for their success on a consistent message that drug use is wrong.''

Mr. Bennett also reiterated his call for firm anti-drug policies in schools and for programs that encourage increased parental involvement. He cited progress made by individual schools and a recent study indicating declining use of some drugs by high-school students as evidence that the "war on drugs'' can be won.

Educators, counselors, and state and local officials from across the country attended last week's conference, which focused on coordinating and evaluating school, community, and statewide anti-drug programs.--J.M.

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