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June 15, 2005 - Brush News Tribune (CO)

Retired Cop Rides For Change To Nation's Drug Policy

By Rebecca Dudley

Return to Drug War News: Don't Miss Archive

Horseback riders on Hwy 6 between Brush and Hillrose are as common as muck in a barnyard and usually don't rate a second glance. However, on Monday, the sight of a cowboy wearing a t-shirt emblazed with the words Cops Say Legalize Drugs was definitely an attention-getter.

Howard Wooldridge, a retired police detective from Fort Worth, Texas, is riding from Los Angeles to New York City to raise awareness that the U.S's drug policy is not working.

Has it reduced crime? Has it curbed the rates of drug related death and disease? Has the War on Drugs done anything to keep drugs away from our kids? Has it made America better in any way whatsoever? I Didn't think so, Wooldridge said, ticking off his points on this riding glove-clad fingers.

Calling it his Paul Revere ride because he is spreading the word Wooldridges message is that the country must end the failed war on drugs and the attitude of prohibition that spawned it.

Everyone knows we are throwing good money after bad, but no one in Washington is willing to say those three hardest words in the language: I was wrong.

I don't know if it is ego or apathy, but no matter how long we have been traveling in the wrong direction, it should never be too late to turn around, he said.

Wooldridge, who was once known as "Hiway Howie" for his fierce efforts to combat drunk drivers, said legal access to drugs for users and treatment facilities for addicts, would free up $70 billion annually in local, state and federal dollars.

Think about what good that money could do, instead of flushing it down the toilet of waging an unwinnable war, he said.

Since his retirement in 1994, Wooldridge became a bi-lingual speaker for the drug-policy reform movement, advocating an end to all drug prohibition. In 2003 he became a lobbyist in the Texas legislature where he and others were able to help pass a bill that mandates no jail time for persons arrested for personal amounts of any illegal drug.

Currently, he has joined forces with 44 other current and former members of law enforcement, in 30 states, calling themselves: LEAP: Law Enforcement Against Prohibition.

Founded in 2002, LEAP is a non profit organization whose members believe the existing drug policies have failed in their intended goals of addressing the problems of crime, drug abuse, addiction, juvenile drug use, stopping the flow of illegal drugs into this country and the internal sale and use of illegal drugs.

They contend that by fighting a war on drugs the government has increased the problems of society and made them far worse. And, that a system of regulation rather than prohibition is a less harmful, more ethical and a more effective public policy.

The mission of LEAP is to reduce the multitude of unintended harmful consequences resulting from fighting the war on drugs and to lessen the incidence of death, disease, crime, and addiction by ultimately ending drug prohibition.

LEAPs goals are to, first, educate the public, the media, and policy makers, to the failure of current drug policy by presenting a true picture of the history, causes and effects of drug abuse and the crimes related to drug prohibition; and second, to restore the publics respect for law enforcement, which has been greatly diminished by its involvement in imposing drug prohibition.

LEAPs main strategy for accomplishing these goals is to create a constantly enlarging speakers bureau staffed with knowledgeable and articulate former drug-warriors who describe the impact of current drug policies on: police/community relations; the safety of law enforcement officers and suspects; police corruption and misconduct; and the financial and human costs associated with current drug policies.

For his part, Wooldridge is speaking at as many service clubs as possible during his cross-country trek. On Monday, he was enroute to Sterling, where he was scheduled to speak to the Sterling Rotary Club on Wednesday.

"I've had a good life so far, and this country has been good to me. I decided early on in my career that, after I retired, I would give my time and volunteer for a worthy cause or two, because there is so much that needs doing.

"This is a worthy cause, maybe one of the worthiest", he said, climbing back up on his horse and figuratively riding off into the sunset.

(Read more about Howard Woolridge's journey across America here.)

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