Pubdate: Mon, Sep 29 2003
Source: Albany Democrat-Herald (OR)
Copyright: 2003 Lee Enterprises
Author: Jennifer Moody, Albany Democrat-Herald
Cited: Law Enforcement Against Prohibition
Bookmark: (Howard Wooldridge)


He wears the hat, the bandanna, the jingling spurs. He rides a horse
and carries a gun. He's even from Texas.

But Howard Wooldridge, 52, doesn't think of himself as a cowboy.
Instead, he sees himself as Paul Revere, riding across the country on
his noble steed to call a country to action.

Like Revere and other early American patriots, Wooldridge has
revolution on his mind. He wants to throw an occupying force out of
the country: drug dealers. But instead of taking up arms, Wooldridge
believes the only way to rid the streets of pushers is to legalize -
for adult use only - the very thing they're pushing.

"Today's policy condemns our children to grow up in a world infested
with bloodsucking drug dealers and their free samples. That is
something society has to eliminate," says Wooldridge, a retired police
officer who served 15 years in Lansing, Mich. "And the only way to
eliminate the drug dealer is to end prohibition."

A member of a 700-member group called Law Enforcement Against
Prohibition, Wooldridge is riding across the country on his 9-year-old
pinto mare, Misty, to promote his message. He passed through Albany
this weekend on his way to Newport.

He knows LEAP's approach causes some people, especially other
officers, to recoil in disbelief. He's argued with plenty of people
during his three-year, nonconsecutive cross-country ride.

But he firmly believes the country's current approach to the War on
Drugs is not working. Jails are filled, new jails are built and still
dealers multiply. Drugs keep getting cheaper, easier to produce and
almost embarrassingly easy to buy. Multiple sales points exist: the
mall, the arcade, the schoolyard, the swimming pool.

All of that, Wooldridge believes, is because illegality drives price.
Make drugs legal and regulate their sale like bottles of whiskey, and
poof: No profit margin. Tighter controls. Lower prices, cutting down
on the number of car clouts and other property crimes caused by
addicts desperate for a hit.

Wooldridge, who wears a worn homemade T-shirt that says "Cops Say
Legalize Pot Ask Me Why," says his message is one conservatives should
embrace. People who hurt the community because of their addiction
should be punished for that abuse, but not for the drug use itself if
no community damage is caused.

"Prohibition is a liberal's approach to drugs, believing that the
government will protect you from bad behavior," he says.

Wooldridge is well aware that drugs can wreck futures, end marriages,
even kill. So can alcohol, he says. But our forefathers, he says, were
wise enough to repeal the 18th Amendment when it became clear that
prohibiting alcohol caused more problems than it solved. This is the
same approach, he says - and he stresses it's only an approach, not a

"Let a person be as stupid as they want to be, but don't bother taking
money out of my pocket because they're doing it with crack instead of
whiskey," he says.

Wooldridge didn't start out a crusader. Six years ago, he was just
dreaming about taking in the scenery on a long-distance ride out west.

Then a brother died of pancreatic cancer. Wooldridge figured it was
time to act on his dream. So he took early retirement from his police
job, moved to Fort Worth, Texas, and started planning his ride.

He began in Savannah, Ga., in March 2001. A television station
interviewed him as he began the trip. That's when he realized he might
attract some attention along the way and figured he'd use it to talk
about something he truly believed. LEAP was born mid-ride.

Wooldridge has stopped the ride twice to trailer home to Fort Worth,
then resumed the following year, picking up where he left off. The
first time, it was because he didn't know how to properly prepare
himself or Misty for the long haul and ended up causing Misty
saddlesores that took weeks to heal. The second time, he needed to
deal with problems at home.

His longest stretch on the road has been 10 weeks. He covers some 23
miles a day when he's planning a full day's ride. Many days, he's
ridden less in order to adjust his schedule or take more time to visit
with people.

Everywhere, he says, he's been warmly received. A Sweet Home resident
offered to stable Misty in her yard one night, and some passersby took
it upon themselves to hand-deliver hay and grain.

"In the 21st century, you can't imagine the trust generated by a
cowboy and his horse," Wooldridge marvels. "It opens up every kind of
door in America." 
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