07/03/11 Howard Wooldridge

Howard Wooldridge Dir of Citizens Opposing Prohibition + Kris Hermes of Americans for Safe Access

Century of Lies
Sunday, July 3, 2011
Howard Wooldridge
Citizens Opposing Prohibition
Download: Audio icon COL_070311.mp3



Century of Lies / July 03, 2011


DEAN BECKER: The failure of Drug War is glaringly obvious to judges, cops, wardens, prosecutors and millions more. Now calling for decriminalization, legalization, the end of prohibition. Let us investigate the Century of Lies.


DEAN BECKER: Welcome to this edition of Century of Lies. I am Dean Becker. Here in just a moment we’re going to bring in our guest, Mr. Howard Wooldridge, former police officer and now heads up the organization Citizens Opposing Prohibition. I first met up with him, gosh, about 10 years ago. He’s one of the longest term guest we’ve ever had on the Drug Truth Network. And, with that, let’s just go ahead and welcome Mr. Howard Wooldridge.


DEAN BECKER: Hey Howard. Where are you at today?

HOWARD WOOLDRIDGE: I am 40 miles from Washington D.C. – the belly of the beast.

DEAN BECKER: That’s a good description. Now Howard you work there, in that belly of the beast. You try to educate and motivate some of our congress critters, right?

HOWARD WOOLDRIDGE: Yeah. I’ve been here now for the last five and one-half years bringing a law enforcement voice to the congress saying that this drug prohibition, the war on drugs, has been a failure, as we all know, and that the rational alternative is to bring these drugs into the control and regulation of the government taking it out of the hands of the drug cartels, the criminals, the bad guys.

DEAN BECKER: You know it’s been almost a month, about a month ago, that the Global Commission on Drugs released their report and there was a big…a storm of media coverage and acceptance…or at least a look at that report and yet we’ve heard very little from the halls of congress in that regard. Your response.

HOWARD WOOLDRIDGE: Of course first, now, the fiscal crisis with the debt ceiling is sucking all the oxygen in Washington these days. Government shutdown, that we can’t have any more borrowing of money, etc.- this is taking up a lot of the oxygen, to be sure. But, in the background, of course, is the fact that the federal government is broke and on our issue, of course, they’re still spending about $15.5 billion (b, boy) billion dollars chasing Willie Nelson, Charlie Sheen, Rush Limbaugh and the rest of them.

DEAN BECKER: Wait, that’s at the federal level, right?

HOWARD WOOLDRIDGE: That’s just at the federal level, about $15.5 billion in the fiscal year 11. And, now, from my sources fiscal year 12 will be the same thing. My colleagues, the lobbyist for the Sheriff’s Association, Fraternal Order of Police, etc., are pressuring the congress to continue that money…keep that money coming in so that they get that good overtime check flying around in helicopters looking for a green plant.

DEAN BECKER: Yeah and something that’s been overlooked is they did away with most of the…I think it was the Byrne Grant money which funded the drug task forces but in the early part of Obama’s administration they brought it back, right?

HOWARD WOOLDRIDGE: Yeah, the Bush administration had asked for it to almost be zero-ed out and then, of course, the police lobbyist said, “Look, we want that money. We love the overtime. We love the job security. We like flying around in helicopters.” And they were able to reinstate it back up to the half-billion (b, boy) billion mark so the lobbyist for the police and what not basically blackmail your congressmen to say, “Either you vote for this money for us or we will tell the folks back home that you’re soft on drugs, soft on crime.” and endorse their opponent. It’s straight-forward blackmail, Dean.

DEAN BECKER: And, let’s remind folks. The type money that funded that sting, operation there in Tulia where 40 black folks were basically arrested, none had any drugs or money or guns…

HOWARD WOOLDRIDGE: Right. These are the task forces the Byrne grants, the Heidi grants that basically target people of color and…I just came back from LULAC convention – that’s the League of United Latino American Citizens and they understand that if you’re white you have to be as stupid as a fencepost in Texas to be arrested for drugs but if you are Latino or black just wake up in the morning and you will be busted. I mean, they understand the racist elements of this and they’re starting to come around saying, “You know what? Maybe this isn’t such a good idea.”

DEAN BECKER: Well, I’m happy to say that here in the Houston community, the good folks at Texas Southern University have had a couple of conferences focusing on that very subject and intend to do more in August, I think, as well. It’s an issue whose time has come which is starting to gain a lot more focus and understanding, right?

HOWARD WOOLDRIDGE: Exactly. In fact, John Conyers, the dean, if you will, of the House of Representatives Judiciary Committee, former chairman, has now endorsed House Bill 2306. For your listeners, House Bill 2306 is the bill to repeal federal prohibition of marijuana which would empower the states to choose their own path on both industrial hemp, medical marijuana or treat it just like beer. This is very significant that a member of the Congressional Black Caucus would endorse a bill which would allow the states to choose their own path on marijuana. This is very huge and we will be working on this more in July and August as the year goes on.

DEAN BECKER: And…you were talking about repeal. You see so many of the papers, even the major players, they talk about legalize as if that were the content. That’s not true, right?

HOWARD WOOLDRIDGE: No. It’s very important for your listeners to understand that the bill in congress put out there by Ron Paul and Barney Frank is a repeal of federal prohibition. It does not legalize anything. It takes marijuana out of Schedule I. It allows the states to choose their path. It makes it a federal penalty to cross interstate lines from say a “smoky state” to a “smokeless state” and it moves all the penalties for marijuana down to the level of alcohol. But, it does not, and I repeat, it does not legalize anything. And, it’s important when you write to your congressman and say, “Will you please support 2306 for repeal.” It’s important to say repeal and not legalize because that would be completely false.

DEAN BECKER: Yeah, it would indeed. Now, you have…I’m not going to say traveled the world, but you’ve traveled extensively looking for information, looking for facts for which you can do battle there in the “heart of the beast” as you were talking about. And you made a couple trips to Switzerland, have you not?

HOWARD WOOLDRIDGE: Sure, I’m a minor expert. I’ve been to Switzerland three times now. I’ve spoken to people at the Swiss Health Ministry about their Swiss program for heroin addiction. I’ve been to the heroin clinics a couple of times, talked to the doctors who run it, seen the patients come in for their daily shots of heroin and seen the overwhelmingly amazing results - now 16 years running – where they reduce crime, death, disease and drug use by allowing some of their heroin addicts to have access to legal, government-controlled and regulated heroin. Overwhelming success.

DEAN BECKER: And, was it just about one year ago that the Swiss actually voted nationally to institutionalize or make that their standard, right?

HOWARD WOOLDRIDGE: Exactly. They voted 68-32 to make heroin, government heroin available to their addicts as part of their normal body of laws. What was interesting, Dean, the Swiss are not some “wild and crazy” people. At the same time they are being so conservative. They voted to keep marijuana illegal - 67-33. So while they legalized heroin distribution by the government, they also kept marijuana illegal. The Swiss are very, very practical. My wife and I just came back. They literally wash their money every morning – out of the sidewalks but they’re very, very sharp on what’s effective and what works and how to save money and that’s why they legalized and regulated the distribution of heroin for their addicted population.

DEAN BECKER: And you hear those on the drug war addict side, those who support this policy, saying, “Oh, we don’t want Needle Park here in the U.S.” and, if I may, I want your response to this but I want to preface with this thought. Needle Park became a problem because it was a tourist Mecca. It was a tolerance zone, if you will, and it did have its problems but only because it was a tolerance zone and not a real policy. Your response.

HOWARD WOOLDRIDGE: Yeah. The Swiss realized in 1992 that the American model of locking everybody up was not working so they said, “We’ll try something different.” So they tried the Needle Park idea. It was a failure and after two years they threw it away and adopted this new policy of heroin-assisted treatment. Treatment on demand and if you can’t stay on methadone, if you’re not successful, they actually allow you heroin, pure heroin, twice a day. This has been very successful - now copied in 6 countries. And, again, the Swiss are very practical people. But, yeah, again, the Needle Park does not exist even though the DEA website will tell you it’s still out there and a failure. Of course the DEA lies…uh…

DEAN BECKER: …for a living…


DEAN BECKER: For a living, come on…

HOWARD WOOLDRIDGE: OK, for a living.

DEAN BECKER: Once again, friends, we’re speaking with Mr. Howard Wooldridge, an associate of mine, a good friend at this point – over the years. Howard, quickly, if you will, tell them about COPs.

HOWARD WOOLDRIDGE: COPs is Citizens Opposing Prohibition. Our mission is to be the voice of law enforcement in the halls of congress, to put a police perspective on this. As many of your listeners know, there’s a thin blue line, my profession, the police, are getting thinner every day. We are being down-sized. And we have to make a hard choice all across America from Washington state down to Florida. Do we chase the Willie Nelson, the Snoop Dogg, the Cheech and Chong around, fly around in helicopters chasing the green plant or do you want detectives in the chat rooms where the pedifiles are chasing your 14-year-old, your 15-year-old. And, the good news is, Dean, that across the country I’m seeing everybody saying, “You know what? Protect my children first and if Willie Nelson has a problem with marijuana, let him see a doctor.” So, on the street this is becoming even easier today to say, “Focus on bad guys – not Willie, not Snoop Dogg.” And COPs provides that voice in congress of law enforcement saying we have to make hard choices and the choice should be to chase bad guys not Willie and Snoop Dogg.

DEAN BECKER: Yeah, so right, Howard. You know you mentioned Willie and Snoop Dog. The truth of the matter is that this idea that the use of drugs will destroy your life and your capabilities is just so wrong. A couple of other names I’d like to throw in there: Michael Phelps, Santonio Holmes, Tim Lincecum – pot smokers, you know, and yet they have exceeded beyond their parent’s wildest expectations. Your response.

HOWARD WOOLDRIDGE: Well let’s talk about one of my major donators to COPs, http://www.CitizensOpposingProhibition.org, and that is Mark Stepnoski.


DEAN BECKER: 13 years in the national football league, 5 time All Pro, couple of Super Bowl rings, center for the Dallas Cowboys and he smoked all through the seasons as a medicine to take care of the aches and pains when those big, 300-pound linemen would hit him every day. Highly successful individual as are so many. Yeah, the government lies to us about this thing and the good news is…and I thank you, Dean, for putting out the truth there…. That many highly successful people have used marijuana and gone on to be successful people. May I say, I smoked marijuana for 7 years when I went to college and during that time I became fluent in French and German and graduated from college, and blah, blah, blah and went on to have a successful career in law enforcement. This is not the Devil’s weed or…it’s not a play toy. It’s not a play toy. It’s a drug so there are dangers but it is nowhere near as bad as alcohol. Much, much safer and it’s time that people wake up and say, “You know what? I agree.”

DEAN BECKER: Yeah. And, I guess, that’s the point. I think back to one of the founders of the John Hopkins University, Dr. William Halstead, was a life-long morphine addict and yet he’s called the father of modern American medicine. You know we have to …to me it’s as simple as this: We should judge people by their actions not the contents of their pocket. It’d be a whole much better country, wouldn’t it?

HOWARD WOOLDRIDGE: Well, sure. Of course these days everybody knows about Charlie Sheen, the star of Two and a Half Men…from all reports he does quite a bit of cocaine but, you know what, he showed up for work every Monday morning and was a highly successful actor, still is. And we have to get away from this model where you think anybody who takes some drugs has a problematic use.

But, again, the forces of prohibition, those folks out there who say, “Any use is problematic or addiction” are wrong and we need even more examples to prove to the public that we need to treat these people as anybody else. And, if you have a drug problem – see a doctor. Other than that, the police should stay out of my house.

DEAN BECKER: Yeah and you had mentioned Rush Limbaugh earlier. I want to remind folks of something. Back at the time when he was having his maid acquire thousands of Oxycontin-type pills, he signed a $100 million dollar contract, he was eating dinner with a U.S. President and he was highly esteemed by tens of millions of people around the country. Drugs are not the problem in many cases. Drugs can create a problem. I’m not saying I want people to use them but I’m saying they are just part of the problem. The problem is demonization, stigmatization, isolation, abuse. People hide with these drugs when their lives have been disrupted and they need help not a jail cell, right?

HOWARD WOOLDRIDGE: You’re right. I’ll be in congress on Tuesday and I’ll be talking to Aids and I’ll be talking up House Bill 2306 and say, “Look, at the end of the day some of these states would like to legalize, regulate and tax this stuff and make some money off this, save some teachers’ jobs.”

We’ve got to go back to a based on the idea that 1) the federal government should not have the power – it should be the states to regulate and control or even continue the prohibition, God bless But many states now would like to tax this to save some teachers’ jobs and some police officers, some firefighters jobs

You know San Jose, California just laid off 122 police officers. In Illinois they lost 30% of their state troopers. 600 troopers were laid off in 2010. New Jersey lost 11% of their police officers and they’re losing more this year. We are in tough times and we have to make a tough decision out there to either continue this nonsense, complete nonsense, as Neill Franklin would say, of chasing a green plant or focus on the true public safety threat of the drunk driver, the child molester, the terrorist. My profession has got to get back to our core mission which is protecting the public from bad guys. And, if you have a drug problem – see a doctor, figure it out or don’t – it’s on you, you and your family.

DEAN BECKER: Yeah, you know, a couple weeks back I was at an event and there was a SWAT officer that was there providing security for the event. I got a chance to talk to him about…you know, I had seen this video online of people being gunned down in their homes, dogs shot, children threatened, all of this. And, I asked him about this one where 70 rounds were fired with 60 hitting the man, they were busting in his house. And he said, “Well, sometimes mistakes will happen.” And I said, “Hasn’t that happened too numerous times for you to feel comfortable.” And he says, “Well, yeah, maybe there needs to be some more oversight.” But he realized that they had stepped over the line and I told him, “I’m with the group Law Enforcement Against Prohibition and we want to make it where people appreciate law enforcement more, where they don’t fear us.” And he said, “Well, that would be a good thing.” And I said, “it’s going to be people like you that are still on the job that will make it more possible.” And he didn’t respond but he didn’t object either and that’s the case, isn’t it? That to legitimize this discussion, to make it where law enforcement on the job can speak the truth, right?

HOWARD WOOLDRIDGE: Yes, Dean but understand the last three officers I know of that came out and said…that were active duty and said, “The war on drugs is nonsense.” All three were fired. So, at this point, the forces of prohibition, the status quo…If you’re an active duty police officer and you come out to your colleagues and say, “The war on drugs is nonsense. Prohibition is nonsense.” You will short-circuit your career and I would urge them not to do that.

Leave it to the retired folks like me to carry your voice into the congress and the state legislatures to say this is bad policy because it is really dangerous for active duty police officers to come out, unfortunately.

DEAN BECKER: Yeah, it sure is. Howard, I guess we’re going to wrap it up here pretty quick. Once again, point folks to your website and some closing thoughts.

HOWARD WOOLDRIDGE: Please go to http://citizensopposingprohibition.org. Look at the site, we have some Frequently Asked Questions. You can read on there what I do every week in congress. And, as I say, my mission is to bring law enforcement voice to congress that is in opposition to prohibition. We support repeal of all drugs starting with marijuana. And, please write your congressman to support House Bill 2306. And if they write and they say, “Yes we support that.” Great and let me know that. And if they say, “No, we don’t support that.” Let me know that also because I and the other three people who are doing full-time work on this bill in congress need to find out the intelligence of what your congressman thinks so we can attack it constructively and see what their concerns are. But, at the end of the day, we believe this should be an issue left to the states - the 10th amendment. And the good news is the Tea Party folks are believing in that and we should get some good traction in the congress to return this policy back to the various states.

DEAN BECKER: Alright, we got to go. Thank you, Howard.

HOWARD WOOLDRIDGE: Thank you, Dean. Take care.


KRIS HERMES: I’m with Americans for Safe Access. I’m Kris Hermes, spokesperson for the group.

DEAN BECKER: Kris, there’s been a major response from the Obama administration. Tell us what’s going on with regards to medical marijuana.

KRIS HERMES: Really this issue dates back before President Obama was elected when he pledged to not use justice department resources to circumvent state medical marijuana laws. Once he was elected the White House made additional comments and ultimately issued a memorandum by the Deputy Attorney General, David Ogden, to U.S. Attorneys in medical marijuana states really signaling a change from the Bush administration’s policies on the issue. It de-emphasized federal enforcement of marijuana laws in medical marijuana states.

However, since then we have seen pretty aggressive enforcement tactics being used by the federal government to…don’t know how else to put it…to undermine local and state medical marijuana laws. We’ve seen more than 100 raids in no less than 7 states and letters from U.S. Attorneys in many of those states threatening local and state officials with federal prosecution.

So, it stands to reason that people would be confused by the Obama administration issuing what by all indications is policy change and then that was proceeded by an aggressive campaign against medical marijuana. So, I think the federal government was under pressure to clarify what they meant in the Ogden memo and the recent memo that came out this Wednesday issued by Deputy Attorney General James Cole really affirmed what the federal government’s latest strategy has been which is a strategy of threats and intimidation against local and state officials. And, it’s really tragic that the federal government is focusing such attention and putting such enormous resources into this battle when it seems to contravene the spirit if not the letter of the new policy.

DEAN BECKER: Now, Kris, the thing that…I don’t know, that just urks me, irritates me is that President Obama is now the third President in a row that was a pot smoker, heck, he even used cocaine when he could afford it and yet he continues to insist that medical marijuana patients and marijuana users around the country – some 700/800,000 arrests are going to follow each year – because they don’t want to change this policy. What is their rationale? What is their reasoning for continuing down this same road? Just because it’s the law?

KRIS HERMES: Well, I think Obama, if I were to guess, had good intentions during his campaign in trying to establish at least a differentiation between medical patients and the common marijuana user. And, I think, you know, despite his good intentions there is an apparatus that exists in the federal government and this apparatus has been in place for decades and is an entrenched bureaucracy called the war on drugs that, unfortunately, undermines the best intentions of people like then-Senator Obama in implementing a change in policy.

So, you know, I think the Ogden memo opened the door slightly for public officials around the country to establish laws such that the producers and distributors of medical marijuana could be “in clear and unambiguous compliance” - as the wording of the Ogden memo states – with state law.

Now, what you see is the federal government coming along and not even giving the opportunity for these local and state officials to pass laws so that these providers can comply with them. It’s very illogical. It really is arguably stepping…trampling on the 10th amendment and the ability for states to govern the public welfare of their own people.

DEAN BECKER: Kris, I know that Americans for Safe Access and many other organizations around the country are a bit outraged, ready to “do battle” and tell us about what’s forthcoming…what you know about in the near future here in standing against this statement.

KRIS HERMES: There are examples of elected officials who are not buckling to intimidation and they’re standing up for patient’s rights. A couple of examples are the state of Delaware in the last six months while all of this intense repression has been going on passed another…the 16th medical marijuana law. In addition to that, the state of Vermont passed a distribution law that would allow their patients to legally and safely obtain medical marijuana in the state of Vermont.

So Governor Shumlin is showing opposition to this intimidation and we hope that others take that cue and we’re not waiting for them to take that cue. We’re going to be mobilizing our grass roots base across the country to urge governors and other elected officials to stand up to this type of intimidation.

And, in addition to that, we are embroiled in litigation with the federal government right now over a pending rescheduling petition. For almost 9 year now the federal government has refused to answer a petition that would reclassify medical marijuana by recognizing it’s therapeutic efficacy. So we recently passed a hurdle in that case when the D.C. circuit ordered the government to answer our writ so we are likely to see movement in that case very soon. Over the next few weeks, hopefully, we’ll be able to get an answer to our petition to reschedule cannabis.

DEAN BECKER: Once again, we’ve been speaking with Mr. Kris Hermes of Americans for Safe Access. Please share your website with the listeners, Kris.

KRIS HERMES: Sure, you can find us at http://www.americansforsafeaccess.org.



DEAN BECKER: What gives the drug war life? Is it the cartels? Maybe it’s the Baptist. The bankers. The gangs…or the cops. Who’s in charge of it? Which politicians? Peasant farmers? Big Pharma? Is it the street corner vendor? Is it you? Is it me? It is fear that gives the drug war life.


DEAN BECKER: Yep and I am sick of that fear and hope you are to. I’m hoping you’ll do your part to end this madness. Please visit our website which is http://endprohibition.org. Prohibido istac evilesco!


For the Drug Truth Network, this is Dean Becker. Asking you to examine our policy of Drug Prohibition.

The Century of Lies.

This show produced at Pacifica Studios at KPFT, Houston.

Transcript provided by: Jo-D Harrison of www.DrugSense.org