WASHINGTON -- Trying to bring renewed vigor to the war on drugs, President Bush on Thursday named conservative John P. Walters as his drug policy director and pledged to pay "unprecedented attention" to helping drug-addicted Americans get treatment.
Bush announced his selection of Walters to head the Office of National Drug Control Policy in a Rose Garden ceremony. He also announced a series of Cabinet reviews to determine the effectiveness of current federal anti-drug efforts, and categorically rejected the idea of legalizing drugs.
"The only human and compassionate response to drug use is a moral refusal to accept it," Bush said. "Drug legalization would be a social catastrophe. ... (It) would completely undermine the message that drug use is wrong."
Walters, known for his tough approach on drugs, said he hopes to "shield our communities from the terrible human toll taken by drug use," starting by focusing on the problem of addiction.
"Our country has made great progress in the past in reducing drug use, and we will do it again," Walters said.
Bush directed John DiIulio Jr., who spearheads the White House effort to open federal programs to religious community groups, to review existing federal partnerships with local organizations that do anti-drug work. He asked Health and Human Services Secretary Tommy Thompson to do a state-by-state evaluation of current treatment needs, and Attorney General John Ashcroft to look into making prisons drug-free, including expanded drug testing of those on parole or probation.
Walters was the office's deputy director for supply reduction when it was headed by William Bennett during the administration of former President Bush.
Walters has stressed the importance of criminal penalties for drug users and opposed the use of marijuana for medical purposes. He also has favored the drug certification program, in which nations are judged by their anti-drug efforts. The program has been a sore point in U.S.-Mexican relations.
Walters is president of the Philanthropy Roundtable, a national donors group.
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