Jim Pinkerton has written a long column which reveals that he has a quintessential baby boomer’s knowledge of 60s and 70s drug rockers. He’s also written a column which, eventually, mentions that he thinks Rush Limbaugh should now favor the legalization of drugs. Now I know I’m in a minority here on the issue (National Review officially favors the end of the Drug War), but I must say that of this is the best argument the legalization crowd can make post-Rush, the drug war will be here for a long time. First of all, Pinkerton claims that somehow people will admire Rush if he comes out for legalization — only after he gets caught. That Pinkerton believes this will let Limbaugh off the hook on the “conservative hypocrite” charge strikes me as bizarre.
Even more bizarre is his use of famous rock star heroin addicts as examples of how drug use isn’t necessarily that destructive. Of course, he conveniently selects the rock star addicts who happen to be still alive. His column would read pretty poorly if he’d cited Jimmy Hendrix, Kurt Cobain, Brian Jones, Sid Vicious, Janis Joplin or that guy from Blind Melon.
Moreover — and this is an important point — most drug addicts aren’t rich rock stars. For a guy who claims to be such a policy maven, maybe Pinkerton should have spent less time rummaging through his albums and spent more addressing the fact that addiction for poor people is a different public policy problem than it is for rich people. That’s unfair — but it’s also true. Limbaugh made serious mistakes, but he didn’t need to mug anybody to feed his habit.
I’m not saying that the legalization argument doesn’t have answers — or responses — to this point. I’m just saying Pinkerton’s column isn’t the place to look for them.