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September 15, 2005 - The Citizen (NY)

Ex-Cop Now Horseback Drug Activist

By Anne Gleason / The Citizen

Return to Drug War News: Don't Miss Archive

MONTEZUMA - Howard Wooldridge stands out riding along the side of the road on his horse, with a shirt which reads, "Cops say legalize drugs. Ask me why."

And it's Wooldridge's intention to stand out.

"The horse is a wonderful vehicle because people relate to the cowboy cop image," he said. Once he grabs someone's attention, "then, we start talking politics."

Wooldridge is a retired policeman who has been fighting to change the way the country addresses the war on drugs.

He's a member of Law Enforcement Against Prohibition, an organization that believes all drugs should be sold at a state-regulated pharmacy and that individuals with drug problems should be sent to clinics to be treated rather than to prison.

"That will allow my profession to get back to focusing on people flying airplanes into buildings and driving drunk," Wooldridge said. "We're spending huge amounts of time on this ... and we're missing the DWIs, missing the child molesters. We're missing the bad people."

On Wednesday, Wooldridge was riding along Route 31 between Newark and Mentz. Just over six months ago, he left Los Angeles, and he has three weeks remaining until he reaches New York City.

He rides between 25 to 30 miles a day, usually for about 11 hours each day.

This is the second horseback trip Wooldridge has made. During the first, in 2003, he traveled from Georgia to Oregon, spreading his message along the way. The first trip, he said, was a personal dream. He's making this trip because he believes it's his duty.

"It's been very successful, but it's been very rough," he said.

Wooldridge said he will stop anywhere from the local Rotary Club meeting to the area 7-11 to discuss the war on drugs.

This time around, he's traveling with an RV, which he said has made this trip easier than his first, when he slept in a tent.

Wooldridge also spends some nights at various people's homes, including some who meet him for the first time along the road.

On Tuesday, Wooldridge said he met a woman at the Pizza Hut in Lyons who welcomed him into her home for the night. Wooldridge has also had to contend with the elements along the way, battling rattlesnakes in Arizona and New Mexico and boiling heat in Nebraska and Iowa.

The people, he said, have been mostly friendly and welcoming, with the exception of a few death threats.

"When your right hand is attached to the reins of a horse, people across American will give you instant trust," he said. "This has all been very worthwhile."

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