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By David Brownlow
October 14, 2003

The sad predicament of Rush Limbaugh and his addiction to prescription painkillers brings attention to one of America's dirtiest little secrets:

Thousands and thousands of Americans, who never hurt anyone but themselves, are wasting away in jail - right this very minute - for the same type of victimless drug "crime" for which Rush has been accused.

Drugs are bad, and drugs will kill you, but jail is the wrong place for people whose only crime is having the same lack of self-control that drove Rush to do such a stupid thing to his body, not to mention his reputation.

With all the information about the harmful affects of drugs, with all the threats, with all the begging and all the silly slogans, Rush and an untold millions of others still continue to pursue and crave something that causes so much harm. That being the case, it is somewhat undeniable that �

Our decades long "war" on drugs has been a spectacular failure.

All the heavy-handed police state tactics have not even made a dent in the use of illegal drugs. If the threat of jail were a deterrent to drug abuse, then we would no longer have a drug abuse problem.

If we are truly a compassionate people, and I believe we are, there has to be a better way to help drug addicts than to simply put them in jail. Granted, a 20 yearlong prison-building boom has left this country with a lot of cells to fill. Let's make sure we are putting the right people in them.

If the facts that have been reported are true, Rush is looking at a potentially lengthy jail sentence for the "crimes" he committed. What a waste that would be! Of course, Rush has a lot of money, so he will probably never spend any time behind bars. Which is a good thing, because sitting in a prison cell is about the last place he will get the help he needs.

Did the threat of jail, or the harm the drugs were causing to his body, deter Rush? What good would it do to cause him greater harm by throwing him in jail? Rush needs help, not jail.

I am not even a fan of Rush, so this has nothing to do with him. And I despise drugs and encourage my kids to feel the same way. The point is this; what happened to Rush Limbaugh has happened to millions of others, who for a variety of reasons have found themselves addicted to mind-altering drugs. Far too many of them are wasting away in prison, even today.

What is the difference between the abuse of prescription painkillers and the abuse of crack cocaine? Both serve the intended purpose of providing the user with whatever relief they are seeking. But for those unfortunate enough to find themselves at the mercy of our criminal "justice" system for abusing the "wrong" drug, or without the financial resources of a Rush Limbaugh, jail is just about the only solution we have to offer.

The costs to society for the failure of this drug "war" have been enormous. The $30,000 to $50,000 average we spend per year to lock up each convicted drug abuser is just tip of the iceberg.

The shattered and neglected families left behind are more often than not left to the care of the state and they are usually stuck living in deteriorating and dangerous neighborhoods. Without a parent in the home, the children of the imprisoned often follow the same self-destructive lifestyles that got their parents into trouble. Then, when the parents finally get out of jail, they find there are few jobs available to ex-cons. So the cycle continues.

Another consequence of this "war" that hits a little closer to home, is that scarce law enforcement resources are being recklessly diverted from a task most of us find far more personally important - protecting us from the bad guys that want to hurt us. Not to sound too harsh, but I could really care less about the drug addicts problems if it means less time spent catching and imprisoning those would do harm to my family.

Then, there is the serious erosion of our freedom that is a direct result of this "war." Property forfeitures, "no knock" searches, kangaroo courts, oppressive banking and tax regulations and a virtual army of heavily armed, federal police are just a few of the consequences.

Think about this. If the police find a small marijuana plot on the back of your property, you risk losing your entire property, regardless of whether or not you knew anything about the drugs. Not only can that lead to all sorts of opportunities for mischief and abuse from dishonest law enforcement officials, it is just not fair when the penalty for a "crime" can be so severe in relationship to the actual offense. And here is a comforting thought - you do not even need to be convicted of a crime to have your property stolen by the government.

The huge sums of money involved in the illegal nature of the drug trade brings along with it a number of other problems such as violent gang turf wars, increased property crimes, corrupt police, and a government that is snooping around in far too many our personal affairs. Based on the evidence, it would appear that the cure is worse than the disease.

Consider this ultimate hypocrisy: we have made a woman's "control over her own body" a near religious tenet when it comes to killing her unborn child. We have even made it easier to kill the child by giving the mother a drug called RU-486. The mortality rate of RU-486 on the intended victim makes heroin seem about as dangerous as an aspirin. In the twisted logic of our time, a mother can legally take a drug that will kill the child in "her body," but if she ever dares to inject an "unapproved drug" into "her body," she risks going to jail! Have we gone nuts or what?

Only a complete idiot would want to destroy his own body with addictive, mind-altering drugs. But if we are going to have an honest discussion about behaviors that will kill you, we certainly need to include alcoholism, tobacco use, obesity and unnatural sexual activities, which have caused the early death of millions of Americans. Why pick on just one self-destructive behavior to go after?

Are we saying the use of illegal drugs is not a problem or that we should ignore it? Of course not. But outlawing drugs and putting the abusers in jail is not the answer. If we really want to solve this problem, we need to offer these people the help they need and we should �

Avoid the insanity of doing the same things over and over again that have failed so many times before.


� 2003 David Brownlow - All Rights Reserved

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Dave Brownlow, an engineer, has been designing and selling industrial automation control systems since 1979. He lives in Clackamas OR with his wife Suzanne and their four children. Active in the pro-life movement and conservative politics for over 20 years, David ran for US Congress in the 3rd District of Oregon in 2002 on the Constitution Party ticket. He has announced his plans to run again in 2004. His Web-Site  E-Mail:








"Then, there is the serious erosion of our freedom that is a direct result of this "war." Property forfeitures, "no knock" searches, kangaroo courts, oppressive banking and tax regulations and a virtual army of heavily armed, federal police are just a few of the consequences."