President Bush says proposals to legalize narcotics are "180 degrees wrong" and the entertainment industry should stop depicting drugs as a humorous or harmless diversion.
"We have to change the way this problem has been looked at," the president said Tuesday during a question-and-answer session with about 100 civics students at a high school in a Virginia suburb of Washington.Inching further away from his once ironclad opposition to tighter gun controls, Bush also said "maybe there's a need for more laws" to restrict the semiautomatic assault-style weapons that are used in drug-related violence.
The president paid a surprise visit to James Madison High School in the Virginia suburbs, about 15 miles from the White House. The school had only 90 minutes' warning he was coming.
To the delight of hundreds of chatting teenagers in the school cafeteria, Bush had lunch with them, eating pizza and french fries and sipping milk through a straw.
In the school library, Bush perched on a stool and answered questions for 30 minutes.
Bemoaning "this stupid abuse of drugs," Bush said that "for a while in this country, it seemed to be we condoned those things we should condemn."
"And we went through a period where the treatment, for example, of the use of cocaine in movies was done in a humorous vein or some kind of, well, harmless, but made the user look like some kind of silly idiot," he said. "But nothing . . . condemnatory.
"And so, we've got to mobilize the entertainment media and say, look, don't put out great emotion in favor of or treat these - in favor of cocaine or other drugs."
Bush said he recognizes that students are under pressure from their peers to experiment with drugs. He suggested that schools try to educate students "about the damage that comes from substance abuse."