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January 14, 2005 - The New Pittsburgh Courier (PA)

What Would Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. Say About Drugs?

By Sonya M. Toler, Courier Staff Writer

Return to Drug War News: Don't Miss Archive

Retired police officer Howard Wooldridge believes he knows what Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. would do about the war on drugs.

"He would call for a classic, Biblical response -- compassion, love, understanding. And those people who are afflicted with addiction need patience and love. They need church, family and community, and that's best done in the community, not in prison," he asserts.

Fifteen years as a foot soldier in the war on drugs, patrolling Bath and DeWitt townships (near Lansing, Mich.), made one thing evident to Wooldridge -- the federal effort was failing, perhaps by design.

His wife transferred to Dallas, Texas, in 1994, prompting Wooldridge to take an early retirement to join her. Three years later, he was advocating an end to all drug prohibition and hasn't stopped.

His campaign will bring him to Pittsburgh Jan. 15, where he will discuss "What Would Martin Luther King Do About the War on Drugs?" at Bethel AME Church, 2538 Woodlawn Drive, Monroeville.

"It's the same principal as WWJD, what would Jesus do? And I believe that Dr. King and Jesus would have the same answer," said Wooldridge, now a member of Law Enforcement Against Prohibition.

The international nonprofit takes the position that after three decades and more than $3 trillion, the war on drugs has merely increased the number of prosecutions of nonviolent drug violations and quadrupled the prison population.

"Usually laws are designed to reduce crime and reduce death and suffering, and what I saw on a regular basis is that this (the war on drugs) actually increases crime, increases death and disease and increases problems all across society," said Wooldridge.

"We in law enforcement are nothing more than a mosquito on the butt of an elephant."

While there's no feasible way to annihilate the use of mind-altering drugs, Wooldridge and Law Enforcement Against Prohibition believes the government should regulate drugs as it does tobacco and alcohol.

"As bad as the government runs things, I'd rather have the government be in control of drugs rather than criminals and terrorists," Wooldridge said. "In my view this is the best approach; there's no solution."

During his talk in Monroeville, Wooldridge will urge people to advocate for the end of the war on drugs by writing letters to the editors of newspapers and politicians and speaking against it in public.

"It has to be the people saying we know this policy is not working, this policy is getting to many people hurt and killed. We must put feet in the street.

"Just as King said segregation must end, we need people all across the nation to stand up and say, 'Enough - we were wrong. The war on drugs is a devastating policy and we need to end it."

Follow Howard's cross-country Journey to end the war on drugs here.

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