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September 4, 2005 - Erie Times-News (PA)

Horse Rider Hopes Journey Will Spur Legalization Of Drugs

By Anne Jungen

Return to Drug War News: Don't Miss Archive

Howard Wooldridge gets death threats. Some think he will destroy America.

But others believe he holds the cure to ending the nation's substance abuse problem.

"This country's policy of drug prohibition is a complete failure," the 54-year-old from Fort Worth, Texas, said. "Drugs are stronger, cheaper and easier to get now than they were 30 years ago."

Wooldridge has a message he wants the nation to hear: Legalize drugs now. He's spent six months trudging eastward across the county riding Sam, a 6-year-old Andalusian horse, and Misty, an 11-year-old paint horse, making sure people hear it.

"Officers have to shift their purpose from drugs to drunk drivers, child molesters and people flying planes into buildings," said Wooldridge, a retired Michigan police officer.

Wooldridge camped in Erie on Saturday night to share his message with anyone willing to hear him out. In worn-out jeans, spurs, red bandanas, a dusty cowboy hat and a sweaty T-shirt that screams "Cops Say Legalize Drugs: Ask Me Why," he's confident that reasonable legalization of drugs is this country's answer to the substance abuse problem.

He believes drugs -- all drugs -- should be available in state-regulated stores and pharmacies under the same stipulations as alcohol.

"Have to be 21 years of age, no using while driving and no outside advertising," Wooldridge said.

Wooldridge said the more than 4,000 people that have stopped him along the way have treated him with respect and are willing to listen, while two police officers "treated me like a homicide suspect."

There's one criticism that gets repetitive, he said.

"Everyone says, 'Won't legalizing drugs increase availability?'" he said. "No, illegal drugs are already available today."

To further his mission statement, Wooldridge co-founded Law Enforcement Against Prohibition, an organization of past and current law enforcement officials who believe in the reasonable legalization of drugs. He believes he will witness the legalization of drugs within 10 years.

Wooldridge left Los Angles six months ago and expects to arrive in New York City in one month. With 12 of the 13 states in his path conquered and 2,700 of 3,300 miles of U.S. highways under his belt, he and the horses are doing fine.

"Everything still works," he said. "But there's still general mental and physical fatigue."

Norma Sapp, 53, of Norman, Okla., follows Wooldridge in a 1984 Ford Econoline to carry necessary supplies.

Wooldridge rode Misty from Los Angeles to Denver before the horse's arthritis made the trip too physically demanding. He said that now he rides Sam for 25 miles each day and Misty for 5 to 8 from sunrise to sunset.

He said the hospitality of strangers has been overwhelmingly positive. Plenty have invited him into their homes for cold water, a home-cooked meal, a hot shower or a place to lay his head at night.

"It's refreshing to know most Americans are good people," he said.

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