Pubdate: Mon, 29 Dec 2003
Source: Sun-Sentinel (Fort Lauderdale, FL)
Copyright: 2003 Sun-Sentinel Company
Author: Bernie Diaz

Regardless of one's partisan spin on the Rush Limbaugh drug possession
case in Palm Beach County, Clarence Page ("Rush makes good case for
drug reforms," Nov. 25) and/or Rush would both be better served by
leaving the topic of drug reform policy to professionals who deal with
drug abuse -- prescription and otherwise -- on a daily basis.
Limbaugh's case should not be used as a litmus test or case study for
drug decriminalization or similarly misguided initiatives.

If anything, the tragedy of Limbaugh's addiction and of the tens of
thousands of other Americans enslaved by illict drugs is that law
enforcement plays a valuable role in substance abuse prevention and
treatment by virtue of its coercive authority in leading nonviolent
abusers and addicts to the rehabilitation they often voluntarily
reject. For example, Rush would not have likely entered into treatment
had he not been charged with possession.

The drug court system given birth in Miami over two decades ago has
been responsible for diverting thousands of nonviolent and often
first-time drug offenders from incarceration to treatment, by
encouraging offenders to choose graduation from a rehab program over
the more costly and debilitating option of prison time. This drug
policy reform initiative has been already alive and well and should be
nurtured, supported and allowed to grow, evidenced by its success in
reducing recidivism (rearrest in Miami-Dade only 6 percent among
graduates), in contrast to the much higher recidivism rates among
non-drug court probationers.

New and more liberal drug-reform policies are not the answer. As
Florida's Drug Control Director James McDonough recently said, "When
we look beyond the crime driven by drugs and factor in the lost human
potential, the family tragedies, massive health costs, business losses
and neighborhood blights instigated by drug use, it is clear that the
greater harm is in the drugs themselves, not in the laws that curtail
their use."


Director of Communications

The Miami Coalition For a Safe and Drug-Free Community
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