HTTP/1.0 200 OK Content-Type: text/html Let's Learn The Right Lesson From Rush
Pubdate: Tue, 14 Oct 2003
Source: Daytona Beach News-Journal (FL)
Copyright: 2003 News-Journal Corp


In 1995, perhaps in response to criticism that blacks are far more likely 
than whites to go to jail for the same type of drug offense, Rush Limbaugh 
issued one of the moralistic edicts for which he is famous: "Too many 
whites are getting away with drug use. The answer is to ... find the ones 
who are getting away with it, convict them, and send them up the river."

For many, it will be irresistible to demand that Limbaugh, now do doubt 
hoping his own lawyers can spare him the fate he demanded for others, 
should go to jail himself.

We hope wiser heads prevail.

The opportunity Limbaugh's fall into drug abuse opens is for a re- 
evaluation of the drug war that has done such damage to America. When the 
ultra-conservative icon of millions of Americans gets hooked, it is a 
chance to broaden the debate over just how we should deal with drug abuse.

We're not saying Limbaugh should not face prosecution. He should. The 
illicit sale of drugs, prescription and otherwise, is a serious problem, 
and Limbaugh had his criminal dealer just like every other addict. And the 
power of drugs is clear when someone like Limbaugh falls, a man who 
presumably stands for the very things in life that make drug abuse unthinkable.

But we have had enough of warehousing drug abusers in jail cells. We 
continue to build more and more jails, but the real abuse is the way we 
underfund drug rehabilitation facilities and programs. People like Limbaugh 
should be sentenced to rehabiliation, not jail.

No, it's not a magic bullet. Limbaugh reportedly has been through some form 
of rehab twice.

But in 2001 the Centers for Disease Control reported that more than 
one-quarter of inmates in American jails were there because of drug 
offenses, or more than 1.5 million people. In many cases, these people are 
like Limbaugh -- not criminals, but drug users more likely to harm 
themselves than others. Many had jobs and functioned well in daily life. 
They were nonviolent. Although unlike Limbaugh, many of these people 
probably were recreational users, not addicts, who were unlucky enough to 
be caught.

It's too soon to say if Limbaugh has been humbled enough to change his mind 
since 1995; it will be sad if he hasn't. We can't afford anymore of the 
hypocrisy that lets celebrities like Limbaugh go to voluntary rehab -- and 
ordinary people go to jail. 
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