Pubdate: Sat, 11 Apr 2015
Source: Standard-Journal (PA)
Copyright: 2015 Standard-Journal
Author: Matt Farrand


Howard Wooldridge wore a T-shirt lettered with the words "Cops Say
Legalize Pot, Ask Me Why" as we talked last week at Lisa's Milltown
Deli. The shirt is among his trademarks, as were the stickers on his
car which echoed the words. Also notable were his boots, jeans and
belt buckle not much different than what Rep. Tom Marino (R-Pa.10)
wears on the House floor.

Wooldridge made a name for himself as co-founder of Law Enforcement
Against Prohibition (LEAP), and is one of its more than 200 speakers
available for talks on the topic of replacing current drug laws with a
practical system of legal distribution and control. MCFCU - Big Box

Most are former cops or retired from careers in law enforcement. A
handful are active in their jobs, or from other countries including
Brazil, Canada and Costa Rica.

To legalize or not has been a topic of interest personally and in the
newsroom. I tilt in favor of personal liberty rather than not, as the
war against substances deemed illegal creates victims out of
proportion to the perceived benefit of removing dealers and users from

Wooldridge spent 18 years in law enforcement in Michigan, three years
as a detective and 15 on the road. He is outspoken about the cause,
decrying the mess created by a century of prohibition. Donning a
cowboy hat, also a trademark, Wooldridge is still on the road a lot,
speaking to groups like the local American Civil Liberties Union chapter.

Wooldridge said it is easier to get pot or narcotics now than it would
be if they were legal and regulated. It is much like the 14 years the
sale, manufacture and transportation of intoxicating liquors was not
legal in the United States.

One in 14 police officers is a narcotics officer, Wooldridge added,
and all police personnel are drawn into drug enforcement in
proportions which inevitably leads to bad policing. Civil Asset
Forfeiture, by which cash, vehicles and property can be seized from
suspects, served as the basis for situations which should trouble
anyone who travels and carries large amounts of cash.

Wooldridge sketched a scenario where a person buys a car at an online
auction and travels from a small community to complete the sale, let's
say from Milton to Wilkes-Barre. If pulled over for any reason,
Wooldridge said an officer could ask how much cash you are carrying,
and without other proof, could suspect you were involved in
trafficking if you are heading to a known drug hub and take your money.

Even if a person is never formally charged, the cost of retrieving
confiscated cash could in turn cost more that it is worth.

"Regular good citizens (are) losing a thousand, $2,000 (or) $3,000
(and my) blood boils," he said, noting the pride he took in his work.

Wooldridge cited the Swiss as a model, a nation where drug use is seen
as a medical challenge rather than left to law enforcement. Crime,
disease and death rates are lower, and the success is not something
peculiar to the Swiss culture. Wooldridge added similar models have
been adopted in half a dozen other countries including Germany.

Wooldridge stressed that mind-altering substances are not for
children, conceding that they can cripple people mentally whether
legal or not. He recalled a Michigan State University classmate who
dropped out because of marijuana use.

A number of things have happened in the time since I wrote a piece
proclaiming that possession of all substances now illegal should be
made legal. Recreational use of marijuana got a green light in
Colorado and Washington with other states perhaps climbing on board.
Wooldridge predicted that as more states adopted similar policies, the
federal classification of marijuana would be revised, clearing the way
for wider acceptance.

I've also had to clarify a couple of things. It should obviously still
be illegal for persons under 18 years to buy pot or other substances,
and that it is still wise to prohibit jumping from doctor to doctor or
forging prescriptions for manufactured pharmaceuticals.

I also had to update an image I had that pot growers and dealers could
be limited farmer's market style retailing of hemp grown in backyards.
As Wooldridge noted, it is big business. Colorado now has a worldwide
reputation as a pot producer that even exceeds that of California. He
also noted that a regulated substance industry has to be allowed to
price its product just right and not undercut by well-established
underground channels.

As my talk with Wooldridge wrapped up, a clean cut and neatly dressed
man leaned in our direction. He said he'd been listening in and noted
that he had been in the counseling field, often working with clients
who had damaged themselves during times of drug use.

It was unclear whether he thought legalization as outlined by
Wooldridge was a timely idea or not. But I had a hunch the man was not
keen on it.

The anonymous man's caution is still shared by many, and they are
tough to convince otherwise. It indeed may take a generation or more,
with additional casualties possible as we go, for societal attitudes
to accept liberty in this area along with its corresponding
responsibilities. Freedom, as noted in other contexts, still isn't
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MAP posted-by: Matt