PRIME Minister John Howard has launched a passionate attack on illicit drugs and a strenuous defence of his own zero tolerance attitudes, saying the Australian community has finally caught up with him in recognising that marijuana is evil.
Campaigning in the marginal Brisbane electorate of Moreton yesterday, Mr Howard let fly over community and political tolerance for so-called recreational and party drugs.
His outburst follows the travails of AFL football star Ben Cousins, and also recent controversy over a school playground incident where young children in NSW are suspected to have taken ecstasy tablets.
Mr Howard said more appropriate names should be applied to illicit substances.
"I think one of the things we have to do is stop glamorising them by calling them recreational drugs or party drugs. All drugs are evil."
"I have for 11½ years preached a policy of zero tolerance. It was ridiculed eight or nine years ago, even by people in my own party. They were wrong. And many people in the Labor Party were wrong.
"They wanted to legalise marijuana. I was always opposed to that. At long last the community, in some ways, has come to its senses on marijuana."
Mr Howard said that drug law enforcement was a state issue, but Canberra had intensified efforts to educate the community by running "very provocative ads" about the dangers of drug taking, and providing extra funds to combat the use of "ice".
"They are evil, all of them, and there should be an uncompromising social condemnation of drugs," Mr Howard said.
The Prime Minister, a former tobacco smoker, said Australians needed to change their attitude towards drug users.
"Why can't we have the same attitude towards drugs that a large section of the community has developed towards tobacco?" he said.
"I mean it's become virtually a criminal offence for people to smoke. I used to smoke and thank heavens I gave it up a long time ago. Now you are a pariah if you smoke."
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