Should Rush Move to Canada?

This week, Canadian Prime Minister Jean Chretien, having blocked marijuana law reform for 30 years, jokes that he may try marijuana once it becomes decriminalized (and he retires); and the former housekeeper of right-wing talk show host, (and staunch drug war advocate) Rush Limbaugh, alleges that she was coerced into supplying him with 11,900 powerful painkillers over a four-year period, to maintain his addiction.

October 4 -- The Toronto Star reports: It's an unlikely retirement scenario for Prime Minister Jean Chretien: he's at his lakeside cottage, sipping tea with his wife Aline -- and smoking a big fat joint. The 69-year-old Prime Minister has never smoked marijuana, he says, but he joked in an interview this week he might be willing to give it a try once it's decriminalized.

Chretien made the joke in an Ottawa interview with the Winnipeg Free Press published yesterday. Chretien was asked how it felt to have bills for decriminalizing marijuana and legalizing same-sex marriages as the exclamation points to his lengthy political career.

"I don't know what is marijuana," Chretien replied.

"Perhaps I will try it when it will no longer be criminal. I will have my money for my fine and a joint in the other hand."

On a more serious note, he defended his government's marijuana bill, which he is trying to pass this fall in what is expected to be his last parliamentary session. He said replacing criminal sentences with simple fines is a more realistic way of punishing marijuana users.

"The decriminalization of marijuana is making normal what is the practice," Chretien said. "It is still illegal, but do you think Canadians want their kids, 18 years old or 17, who smoke marijuana once and get caught by the police, to have a criminal record for the rest of their life? "What has happened is so illogical that they are not prosecuted any more. So let's make the law adjust to the realities. It is still illegal, but they will pay a fine. It is in synch with the times."

October 5 -- The UK Observer reports: For once Rush Limbaugh, the US's most popular radio talkshow host and the voice of America's neo-conservative political movement, had nothing to say on the story captivating the political salons of Washington DC: allegations that he is addicted to prescription drugs and bought thousands of pills on the black market.

"I haven't got to the bottom of this yet," he told his 20 million listeners after the claims of his drug abuse emerged last week. "I don't want to deal with hypotheticals or respond to what's in the press."

But if Limbaugh uncharacteristically restrained himself, others haven't been so reticent, among them the radio host's long-time friend and political soulmate, President George W. Bush, who reportedly told aides yesterday, "Rush is a great American. I am confident he can overcome any obstacles he faces right now."

The President's support came as police in Florida, where the multimillionaire talkshow host lives, confirmed he was being investigated over claims he illegally procured the prescription drugs hydro-codone and OxyContin through his former housemaid, Wilma Cline. She has told police she supplied the drugs to Limbaugh over a four-year period from 1998.

OxyContin is derived from opium and is one of the most powerful pain-killers available. It is known on the streets in America as Hillbilly Heroin because of its popularity among drug addicts in the poorer areas of the American south.

Cline gave detectives a ledger detailing her alleged drug purchases on behalf of Limbaugh -- including 4,350 pills in one six-week period -- and a thick sheaf of emails allegedly sent to her by her former employer in which he asks her to supply him with the drugs. She claims to have bought a total of 11,900 pills for him: "There were times when I was worried... all these pills are enough to kill an elephant, never mind a man."

Her story first emerged in the supermarket tabloid National Enquirer but quickly spread to the mainstream media, where it was seized on by Limbaugh's liberal critics, not just as evidence of his rank hypocrisy but also as a harbinger of his eventual demise.

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