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August 8, 2005 - Post-Tribune (IN)

Former Michigan Cop Rides To Legalize Drug Use

By Kathy Ceperich

Return to Drug War News: Don't Miss Archive

MICHIGAN CITY -- The rugged lanky figure in cowboy hat and spurs making his way along U.S. 12 atop a horse isn't a common sight, especially through Gary, Porter and Michigan City.

The message former Michigan police officer Howard Woolridge carries isn't usual either.

"Cops say legalize drugs; ask me why," his T-shirt invites.

Woolridge, 54, is co-founder of the not-for-profit group Law Enforcement Against Prohibition or LEAP, and is making his way from Los Angeles to New York on horseback, passing through the region this weekend.

It's not a freewheeling drug party he's promoting but policy reformation that would legalize and regulate currently illegal drugs with hopes of ultimately improving the system.

Thousands of drugs are available at pharmacies and those are regulated and taxed, Woolridge said. However, about a dozen drugs are the bane of law enforcement agencies and are costing taxpayers billions for drug enforcement and incarceration of prisoners. They also carry a high death toll due to homicides, he said.

Woolridge likens today's drug problems to those faced during the prohibition, including violence such as the St. Valentine's Day massacre and moonshine stills in family homes.

He said drug problems today include methamphetamine labs in kitchens where children are eating their Cheerios and shootouts on street corners over drug buys. He said 75 percent of felony crimes are related to drug prohibition, from homicides over drug deals to home burglaries by addicts trying to get money for their drug habits.

Some observers who stopped Woolridge were interested.

"He's got some very valid points," said New Buffalo, Mich., resident Dave Booth, "It totally requires some thought."

"People see the T-shirt and say, 'Why?' " Woolridge said. He said police resources would be better spent on prosecuting child molesters, drunken drivers and people flying airplanes into buildings.

He said each dealer arrested or killed is replaced immediately because of profitability in the black market. He said profitability is what has made the drugs so readily available, even in small-town America, where it's easier for teens to get illegal drugs than alcohol, for which they are often carded.

Woolridge said he travels about 30 miles per day.

Two years ago, he said he road on horseback from Georgia to Oregon. Last year he put 30,000 miles on his Chevrolet truck delivering his message.

He said eight years ago when he started his campaign he was immediately labeled a lunatic, but now many of the thousands of people he has talked to agree with him and are asking serious questions.

"It's good to be part of the change," he said. His next goal is to be a lobbyist in Washington. D.C., for the reform.

For more information, visit the LEAP Web site at

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