Pubdate: Wed, 15 Oct 2003
Source: Times and Democrat, The (SC)
Copyright: 2003, The Times and Democrat


There's a measure of irony in the situation surrounding conservative
radio talk show host Rush Limbaugh.

Always outspoken, Limbaugh has been known to say of drug users: They
"ought to be convicted and sent up." Tough talk until the talker
becomes the drug user.

Limbaugh admitted to the nation this past week that he is addicted to
prescription pain killers. His admission follows reports in recent
weeks that he had been obtaining the drug OxyContin illegally. Citing
anonymous sources, The Associated Press even reported that Limbaugh is
being investigated by the Palm Beach County, Fla., state attorney's

One might expect that his critics would resort to Limbaugh-like wrath
in response. "Let him go to jail," they might be expected to say.

Problem is, these are the folks traditionally taking the position that
drug abuse is a sickness and not something that should make an
individual a criminal.

Gary Nolan is a nationally syndicated radio talk show personality,
activist leader and Libertarian candidate for president. While
consistent with Libertarian positions on drugs, Nolan's view echoes
the lines coming from others being given the opportunity to skewer

Nolan takes exception with those calling Limbaugh courageous and
points to his status under the law. "As far as the law is concerned,
Rush is no different than the person who buys marijuana, cocaine or
heroin. ...

"Rush is one of the lucky ones; with a $30 million income he can
afford the high cost of avoiding law enforcement to support his habit.
Drugs are worth pennies on the dollar. It's the high cost of
circumventing law enforcement that drives the prices through the roof.
If his salary was the same as the average American's he might have to
resort to crime to support his habit. How many cars wouldn't be
stolen, how many violent crimes wouldn't be committed if drugs were
legally marketed by reputable pharmaceutical companies?"

While others aren't going so far as to promote legalization of drugs
from prescription types to marijuana, those on the left are saying
that Limbaugh's plight points to the need to focus on rehabilitation
more than punishment.

It was during the same week that Limbaugh admitted his problem that
Orangeburg Sen. Brad Hutto was making a speech to the Rotary Club of
Orangeburg-Morning during which he addressed the cost of incarceration
in battling the state budget crisis.

Advocating that non-violent offenders be kept of jail, Hutto said,
"There are some very bad people that have to be locked up, but some
people are harmless to others, but for some reason, just can't follow
the rules. I say, let them pay fines, pick up trash, be kept in home

And as the senator and others would agree about addiction: Get them

As much as Limbaugh will be expected to be hard-nosed in his position
about drugs and drug abuse, there's little reason for him to pretend
any longer. Getting help and then speaking out about battling
addiction could give thousands of other people new opportunity at life.

Should Limbaugh's involvement with drugs prove broader than his
admitted status as a personal abuser, our position and that of nearly
all others could change. But if he is no more than a man with money
able to acquire a drug to which he is addicted, he needs help, not

As Nolan writes: "Nothing will be gained by sending Rush to prison.
Nothing is gained by imprisoning other less-famous drug users either.
If Rush's fellow conservatives resolve their dilemma with compassion,
perhaps we can all agree to stop treating drug use as a crime and stop
wasting lives. And we can continue to enjoy 'Excellence in
Broadcasting' for many years to come."
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