Cops say legalize pot - ask me why

With those words emblazoned on my white T-shirt I made about 1,500 contacts in the year 2000. In line at the store, sitting in a restaurant, walking through a mall and a dozen other locations, I influence thousands of people. In addition to the personal contacts, I estimate that about 50,000 persons have read the shirt. I wear the shirt about 60 hours per month. Anyone can do this.

The shirt you want to wear similar to mine may cost you as much as $25 at your local T-shirt store. Yours can say:


I use three colors to help me stand out. COPS SAY is in blue; LEGALIZE POT is in green (naturally) and ask me why is black. I have the same words on the back with one difference; I put the ask me why at the top so people see it and know it is okay to bother me when I am sitting.

When someone asks me why, I normally only have a maximum of 30 seconds to start converting them from Drug Warrior to Drug Reformer. I state two basic reasons while answering their question. First, we want to eliminate drug dealers and their influence on our kids. This answer immediately puts you on the same side as the listener; of course everyone wants to eliminate drug dealers. Now the listener knows you are not a wacko fanatic.

Second, police officers want to put drunk drivers in jail. Our detectives want to arrest child molesters and rapists, not chase a drug that has never killed anyone. At that point I let the listener make comments or ask questions. If that 30 seconds develops into a 1-2 minute conversation, I then show them a business card indicating membership in Drug Policy Forum of Texas.

At the end of the encounter, most people keep my card. Whether I present a card or not, my final statement is, "Please write a letter to the Governor, c/o Postmaster, Austin, Texas. It will take ordinary people like you and me to change drug policy."

In addition to changing minds and recruiting new members, it always feels good to do something publicly almost every day. Many of those who ask why, thank me for my efforts.

(Howard J. Wooldridge is drug war activist and retired police officer living in Texas. If you want to communicate with Howard J. Wooldridge, his telephone number is (817) 431-7070, and his email address is