Tony Newman at (646) 335-5384 or Tommy McDonald at (212) 613-8036
After a three-year investigation into “doctor shopping” for prescription painkillers, Rush Limbaugh was formally charged last week with illegally purchasing thousands of narcotics.
Limbaugh surrendered to local authorities in Palm Beach County (FL) last Friday after reaching a deal that arranged for the charge to be dismissed in 18 months upon the completion of a diversionary program. After being booked on a sole charge, Limbaugh was photographed, fingerprinted and posted $3,000 bail.
Limbaugh, a strong proponent for harsh treatment of non-violent drug offenders, received drug treatment and avoided jail time as part of his agreement. In 2003, Limbaugh publicly admitted he was addicted to prescription pain killers. He blamed his addiction on pain associated with back surgery. However, Limbaugh has been less than sympathetic to others suffering from pain and addiction, publicly scoffing at the notion of offering compassion and access to treatment for non-violent drug offenders.
Just last week, Limbaugh enthusiastically praised the Food and Drug Administration’s pronouncement that no sound medical evidence existed showing the medical efficacy of marijuana. Of sick and dying medical marijuana patients, Limbaugh smugly crowed to his national audience, “the FDA says there’s no — zilch, zero, nada — shred of medicinal value to the evil weed marijuana. This is going to be a setback to the long-haired, maggot-infested, dope-smoking crowd.”
Despite Limbaugh’s intolerant, dismissive rhetoric, the Drug Policy Alliance, the nation’s leading organization working to end the war on drugs, supports drug treatment and not jail time, for Limbaugh and the thousands of others who suffer from substance abuse problems.
“We are of two minds regarding Rush’s fate,” said Ethan Nadelmann, Executive Director of the Drug Policy Alliance. “On one hand, the Alliance’s guiding principle is that people should not be punished for what they put into their own bodies, but only for crimes committed against others. According to that logic, Rush–even Rush– should be allowed to deal with his issues with drugs privately.”
“On the other hand,” Nadelmann pointed out, “Limbaugh is the man who scoffed at the idea that African Americans are disproportionately arrested on drug charges, and suggested that the solution was to arrest more white people. Perhaps the only way for draconian drug laws to change is for people like Limbaugh to join other non violent drug offenders behind bars.”
Nadelmann is hopeful, however. “Ideally, Rush’s experiences with addiction and the drug war will encourage him to join the movement to reform drug policy,” he added. “He has a huge platform and could use his voice to help others in the way that he has been helped.”