Stockton, CA / Bilingual Weekly
Howard Wooldridge is neither a cowboy nor a pot user. Yet he has embarked on his third cross-country horseback crusade for the legalization of drugs.
In 2002 —retired from a honorable18-year law enforcement career— he and four colleagues founded Law Enforcement Against Prohibition (LEAP) a non-profit organization of former and current police officers who oppose the current War on Drugs.
Their mission is “to reduce the multitude of harms resulting from fighting the War on Drugs and to lessen the rates of death, disease, crime, and addiction by ultimately ending drug prohibition.”
This month, California Proposition 19 —that would legalize various marijuana-related activities and allows local governments to regulate and tax them and which will be on the November 2, 2010 statewide ballot— became Wooldridge’s reason to traverse the Central Valley with his message of support.
He stood for several hours at the corner of Pacific and March Lane, North Stockton, with his mare, Misty. The odd pair —and colorful signs— attracted many motorists, some honking on approval. In his two previous Pacific to Atlantic trips Wooldridge rode Misty, but this time the pinto horse only stands for the pictures.
By mid afternoon the former policeman took a break to talk to Bilingual Weekly.
Munching on a Subway sandwich he asked to be interviewed in Spanish —one of four languages he speaks fluently.
BW: You have stated you haven’t tried pot since college 34 years ago. Why do YOU campaign for this Proposition?
Because, in my experience as a law enforcement agent the current government policies to fix the drug problem can be summarized in one word: Failure. Things are not better, but worst. We spent much more time looking for the green leaves rather than getting to the bad guys. The result is the drugs are managed and controlled by the bad guys rather than in the responsible hands of the government.
BW: So, are you a paid campaigner?
No. I pay every cent of this adventure.
I retired. I got good investments. I thought, here I am, I want to do something grand. Change something. I chose to campaign because, in my experience, we never are going to win this war on drugs. We arrest one dealer… and in no time two take their place. We are leaving the business to criminals. I thought I can do call attention to this issue and, hopefully, make a change.
BW: You have stated that to support legalizing marihuana would be career suicide for an active police officer. If marihuana is harmless as you have said, why would it be so grave?
I have never stated marihuana is harmless. It is psychologically addictive. Though it isn’t half as bad as legal drugs as alcohol, or tobacco. To use marihuana is not bad, just stupid. It doesn’t make you violent… but I am not defending the use of marihuana, I am saying to leave the importing, sale and distribution to criminals is just absurd.
BW: You are a Michigan dude, not a cowboy state. Why the horse and the cowboy outfit?
When I retired, I moved to Texas. I learn to ride horses. I got my own horse and I wanted to the adventure of a long ride. So I did. I noticed a horseman calls people attention… So that’s it.