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July 14, 2005 - The Telegraph Herald (IA)

Horseman's Message: Legalize Drugs

The Retired Texas Police Officer Says Authorities Have Better Things To Worry About Than Drugs

By Amanda Martin

Return to Drug War News: Don't Miss Archive

A retired Texas policeman is riding horseback across America wearing a T-shirt that says "Cops Say Legalize Drugs."

Howard Wooldridge, 54, a member of the group Law Enforcement Against Prohibition (LEAP), is hoping to spread his message that law enforcement officials have better things to worry about than drugs - such as drunken driving, child molestation and "flying planes into buildings."

"After 35 years of the war on drugs, we know the government and police cannot stop anyone from making a foolish decision about drugs," Wooldridge said during a stop in Dubuque on Wednesday.

The former Fort Worth police officer said drugs are readily available to America's youth.

Wooldridge thinks drugs should be the business of doctors and pharmacists.

By legalizing drugs, Wooldridge said the government could regulate them. He is confident people would choose to buy government-inspected drugs rather than drugs off the street.

He said legalizing drugs will get dealers off the street and keep them out of the ever-filling jails, destroy the black market and stop giving funds to terrorists. He said drug money is the No. 1 source of money for terrorists.

"This is a question of mismatched priorities," Wooldridge said. "The question should always be about public safety."

Dean Nelson, a prevention specialist at Helping Services for Northeast Iowa, disagrees with Wooldridge.

"I think (legalizing drugs) would be a real negative thing," he said. "I think there would be the inclination to do a lot more experimenting, and a lot of addiction and problems could develop out of that."

Instead of legalizing drugs, Nelson said it is important to educate people at an early age, which is one of the goals of Helping Services.

Sgt. Bob Lynn, head of the Dubuque Drug Task Force, said there would be no positive effects of legalizing drugs. Making drugs more accessible would increase use, he said.

"My experiences tell me that drugs basically destroy families," he said. "They become financial burdens, they are put before the family and the bills, kids become secondary if not obsolete, they can lead to physical and sexual abuse."

Wooldridge began his trip March 4 in Los Angeles. He plans to end in New York in October.

He said that people in Iowa "get it," commenting that several people approach him each day agreeing with his message.

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