LEAD: To the Editor:
To the Editor:
You ask, "Whatever happened to the drug crisis?" ("Which War on Drugs?", editorial, Aug. 31). It is still very much with us. Though the Reagan Administration may have given up on the war, Congress has not. Less than 90 days after the President signed last October's anti-drug-abuse act with fanfare, his 1988 budget proposed drastic cuts in the very programs the bill enacted. Congress is restoring most of that, nearly $1 billion for eradication, enforcement, education, prevention and treatment.
You say attention to the drug crisis has been "eclipsed by AIDS." But acquired immune deficiency syndrome and narcotics abuse are intertwined. The sharing of dirty needles is the second leading cause of AIDS. Sexual partners and newborn children of drug addicts are also at risk.
I was surprised by your limited proposal - methadone maintenance - to fight heroin and the casual manner in which you propose to eliminate counseling and social services for methadone addicts. If one of your goals is to contain crime by putting heroin addicts on methadone, say so.
In advocating further decriminalization of marijuana, you ignore the most recent information available. In a University of Chicago national poll last April, 81 percent said the use of marijuana should not be made legal, while only 16 percent said it should. A September 1986 Gallup Poll showed 67 percent of Americans believed possession of small amounts of marijuana should be a criminal offense. You say 11 states have reduced penalties for possession for personal use, but that was in the 1970's. Last November, Oregon voters rejected, three to one, an initiative to legalize possession and growth of marijuana for personal use.
Decriminalization would suggest that marijuana is not harmful, when research of recent years shows it harmful to the reproductive, cardiovascular and respiratory systems. Sustained use causes extreme lethargy and apathy. Decriminalization would offset recent progress in making young people aware of the risks of marijuana, tobacco and alcohol.
On cocaine, I agree there is a critical need to reduce the supply at home, but we must also deal with problems abroad. Drug crops have skyrocketed in recent years in drug-producing countries. Yet Attorney General Edwin Meese 3d has said he does not agree with sanctions, and the State Department refuses to use sanctions authorized by Congress.
Illicit narcotics trafficking is a threat to our national security. In any week, far more people in my district are lost to drugs from foreign countries than will probably ever be lost to Communism. Yet drug abuse is not a top priority of the Administration.
For more than five years, the President had a special assistant for drug policy. He worked in the White House and nobody knew who he was. Last year, he resigned without fanfare. He was Carlton Turner. He has been replaced by Donald Ian Macdonald - who also heads the Alcohol, Drug Abuse and Mental Health Administration. That is hardly single-focus leadership on the drug problem. The Attorney General, designated by the President to be in charge of the Administration's drug policy, obviously has many other responsibilities and problems.
Congressional efforts to create a "drug czar" stem from frustration with the President's failure to appoint a full-time, high-level coordinator of Federal drug policy who will have the full backing and respect of the President, Congress and the people. We must have a comprehensive national drug policy - eradication abroad, interdiction at our borders, enforcement on our streets, education in our schools, prevention and treatment at home.
CHARLES B. RANGEL
Chairman, House Select Committee
on Narcotics Abuse and Control
Washington, Sept. 14, 1987