President Reagan said yesterday that a "false glamor" surrounds the use of marijuana, when in fact it is a dangerous drug, especially for teen-agers.
Saying that for too long the nation has adopted a "helpless attitude" about drug use, Reagan said, "We're taking down the surrender flag that has flown over so many drug efforts. We're running up the battle flag."
He conducted a special ceremony in the White House Rose Garden to announce the formation of a drug abuse task force that includes federal health and law enforcement agencies, and he signed a proclamation elevating his senior adviser for drug policy to the new position of director of the White House's Drug Abuse Policy Office.
The director, former University of Mississippi pharmacy professor Carlton Turner, said the administration plans to intercept drugs before they are smuggled into the country and to educate students and their parents about the dangers of drugs.
In a briefing for reporters after the ceremony Turner appeared to be of two minds about how serious the problem is.
He expressed alarm that drugs are tearing the fabric of society, but he also cited stepped-up anti-smuggling efforts by the administration in south Florida that he said had reduced smuggling there to a trickle. South Florida is the port of entry for 80 percent of the drugs in the United States, he said.
Although Turner said he and the task force would be concerned with all drugs, his remarks and Reagan's focused on marijuana. Turner said that cocaine and amphetamine abuse appear to be rising and that there is some reported increase in heroin use "in particular corridors of the U.S."
Some of those corridors are about a mile from the White House. Drug peddlers openly hawk heroin along them, and authorities have established a link between urban crime and heroin use.
A reporter asked Turner why the government should attempt to prevent adults from smoking marijuana, especially given Reagan's oft-stated view that government too often tells people how to run their lives.
In answering, Turner mentioned instead another drug:
"My idea is that this society we live in today has a responsibility and, when you have a situation where we have 26,000 people killed on the highway each year because of alcohol, that should give you an answer."