by Dean Becker
by Steve Nolin
Howard Wooldridge, member of Law Enforcement Against Prohibition (LEAP; www.leap.cc)
Dean: Welcome to Cultural Baggage. Our guest for the evening is Howard Wooldridge, a member of the Law Enforcement Against Prohibition, leap.cc. But first, the news. Earlier today, I spoke with Bill Piper of the Drug Policy Alliance (drugpolicy.org) and I asked him about an ad I saw which suggested that we save our jails for real criminals and stop arresting marijuana users. Here’s what he had to say.
Piper: Well, it’s significant for
two reasons. One, we’re running
it in DC
subway stops that members of Congress and congressional staffers visit, so they
will be getting a very clear message that marijuana prohibition does more harm
than good; but it is also significant because it’s the result of a lawsuit
that the Drug Policy Alliance and the ACLU and other groups launched earlier
this year in response to a Federal law that was passed that essentially
prohibited drug policy reform groups from advertising on buses and subways
around the country. So we sued, and
a few months ago a Federal judge ruled that that Federal provision was
unconstitutional, that it violated the first amendment, and that we had the
right to run advertising to raise awareness about the cost – both in human
cost and fiscal cost – of locking up nonviolent marijuana smokers.
Dean: It should be quite a surprise for the U.S. Republican guard when they return to DC from their shenanigans in New York. Drug czar of the Americas, John Walters, tours North America stating that marijuana has become so potent it’s more dangerous than heroin, cocaine, and methamphetamines. But late last week the U.S. Justice Department brought forth evidence that shows that’s just a lie. From marijuananews.com out of British Columbia, this is Richard Cowan.
Cowan: If the American media
objected to the American people being lied to – to get into the domestic wars
instead of foreign wars – then this report from the Justice Department would
blow the drug czar out of the water. You
know, the problem is not that Canada is suddenly this pro-pot place swamping the
U.S. with potent bud, the problem is that there are people in power in both
countries who do not believe in the fundamental principles that the two
countries were founded on. It’s
Thanks to the policies, support, and involvement of the current U.S.
administration, 7 million Afghanis are now free to grow opium poppies in support
of the world’s demand for heroin.
Intro and Poppygate – Glenn Greenway: This
update begins in Vermont, which leads the U.S. in the rate of prison population
growth. The Director of Planning
for Vermont Department of Corrections cites cheap heroin for the state’s
prison population explosion, especially among women, and adds “It’s very
easy to turn to, especially when it costs less than a beer.” On to Great Britain, where a memo recently reaped from a
British Cabinet Drugs Committee meeting said that any arrests of Afghan heroin
producers would have to be “handled sensitively.” The British opposition responded that the current policy will
result in more heroin use, rising crime rates, and increased funding for
terrorism. On August 6, in Santa
Marta, Columbia, U.S. drug czar John Walters admitted Plan Columbia is failing.
Five days later on route to Kabul, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld
touted Plan Columbia as a successful model for ending opium production in
U.S.-occupied Afghanistan. This is
Glenn Greenway reporting for the Drug Truth Network.
Dean: Let’s face it – the threat to liberty that Americans often encounter comes from those who kick in your door in the middle of the night, those who take billions of dollars in material goods each year without a conviction, those who point guns at children, and who sometimes kill innocents by mistake – those who imprison more than a million nonviolent U.S. citizens each year for witchcraft. Law enforcement has used their lynchpin status in preserving this drug war and now they have become part of a conspiracy of silence and have become that which they were most obligated to destroy. To respond to that thought, we have with us today an 18-year veteran of law enforcement, and a very active member of Law Enforcement Against Prohibition. Mr. Howard Wooldridge, welcome to Cultural Baggage.
Wooldridge: Thank you, it’s good
to be here.
Yes, sir. I wanted to ask
you a question here about the Texas law you helped to promote as a lobbyist last
year. Tell us about that law and
how it impacts the citizens of Texas.
Wooldridge: I was a small part of
the team that passed House Bill 2668, which provides that for the first offense
of personal amounts of any illegal drug, from marijuana to heroin, the citizens
of Texas receive no jail time. It
is straight into probation or probation/treatment.
Now, Howard Wooldridge, tell us what is the nature of your work.
What has compelled you to become a member of LEAP, tour the U.S. and the
world in fact, speaking of the need to end prohibition.
Wooldridge: Well, leaving police
work after 18 years – that is a big hole.
When you are arresting drunk drivers, you are arresting child molesters,
you know, you are making your community safer and better.
And when you don’t have that ability to do it, you want to do something
important. And what I realized 7
years ago when Bob Ramsey got me into this was that I could be a person who
could change law by advocating changing our drug laws, which would then make my
community safer and better.
OK, earlier today you spoke to the Houston City Council on behalf of
Bayou City Compassion. Tell us of
any response you received from the council or from members of the audience.
Wooldridge: I had several members
of the audience who were very positive, wanted to get my business card and a
brochure from LEAP. I spoke to
several black ministers who were there. They
were interested in the message of ending the drug war.
Unfortunately, one of them said “No, that would be a terrible thing, to
end the drug war.” Which is
always surprising since it’s the black community which suffers more than any
other minority in this war. Unfortunately,
they keep thinking that it is the drugs that are the problem as opposed to the
Now, Howard, earlier this week I spoke to the director of LEAP, and he
reminded me that your organization had been attending certain police
conventions. Tell us a bit about
Wooldridge: Yeah, we received a
nice grant earlier this year from another reform group to go to the unconverted
– not only the unconverted, but the police unconverted.
We are going to attend about seven conferences this year of nothing but
police officers. The first team
that met in Seattle – the National Sheriff’s Association, where there were
about 4,000 sheriffs, under-sheriffs, command officers – we tabled and lobbied
hard for brethren to admit what we all know and that is that the war on drugs,
drug prohibition, is getting more people hurt and killed than the drugs
themselves. And we in law
enforcement need to speak out because we know the issue better than anyone.
Howard, you have studied the history of this drug war and you have been
in the trenches, as you were just speaking of.
You receive overwhelming support anywhere you talk for ending this
failure of drug prohibition, and it brings to mind these facts are so obvious
– in my opinion, glaring – what is the glue?
What is it? It’s not just
the money – is there some other societal or subconscious mechanism in play?
Wooldridge: Well, there are many
factors keeping policy the same. I
think number one, of course, is the money from the drug companies which fear
marijuana as a competitive product, the alcohol industry which also fears
marijuana as a competitive product, but also remember, Dean, that the three
hardest words in the English language are “I was wrong.”
Ego plays a huge part in keeping this the way it is because people are
very reluctant to admit they were wrong on something.
And the other part of it is because the people have been receiving so
much propaganda for the last 30 years, that the world would absolutely fall
apart, the sun would not come up if we changed one drug law, that American
soccer moms and dads have been scared into believing we can’t change anything.
Otherwise, my 15-year-old would just be somehow destroyed by these drugs.
Dean: You know, I mentioned that Howard tours the nation giving talks to Rotary’s, many other organizations within the community – and as I pulled up to the station, I caught a good look at his truck and you know, that would be hard for me to drive across country. But describe your truck and what interaction that probably leads to.
Wooldridge: Well, I have got a
Chevy half-ton pickup truck and in the back of the windshield, I cut out one of
my old T-shirts that says “Cops Say Legalize Pot – Ask Me Why.”
And then on the tailgate, I’ve got some magnetic signs that say “Law
Enforcement Against Prohibition … Ask Why.”
“Focus on Drunk Drivers” – also got that, “Focus on Drunk
Drivers.” On the side of the
truck, basically, a shrinermobile (sp?).
And the reaction across America has
been absolutely wonderful. I have
had so many “Welcome” signs and people nodding their head and grinning and
beeping their horns, truck drivers blasting their airhorns in support.
Because I have put on about 25,000 miles already this year on my Chevy
truck, and from Oregon to Virginia, from Detroit down to Miami, across this
nation, people have responded positively to the idea that law enforcement should
concentrate on public safety issues and not worry about whether Willie Nelson or
Whitney Houston or Rush Limbaugh is using a drug in the privacy of their own
A comment you made a second ago reminds me of something I read on you
today that when you were a law enforcement officer you saw that many more people
were killed by alcohol than all the other illicit drugs combined.
And was that part of your focus – what brought you to become a member
Wooldridge: Well, the public safety
threats out there, like the drunk driver, are going unaddressed or certainly not
as focused as we would like to – I am convinced that my colleagues could save
thousands of lives every year needlessly killed by drunk drivers because we are
chasing Willie, we are chasing Whitney Houston, and Rush Limbaugh, and their
suppliers, as opposed to going after the obvious public safety threats of the
drunk and reckless driver, the child molester, the people breaking into our
home, the animals who rape our women and children – because we have lost focus
on public safety. Instead, society
has told us to go after personal safety issues about what you put in your mouth.
Now, we touched on this last time. We
talked, but when these cops have their ass up in the air and they are down there
looking under the dashboard and under the seat, how many hours does that
involve? Is that part of the
average cop’s lifestyle?
Howard Wooldridge: Well, unfortunately yes, Dean. I have done a small informal study of that. Road officers spend, across the nation, almost exactly as many hours looking under your front seat for marijuana as they do for drunk drivers. And unfortunately, every hour we spend – and it is about 10 million, by the way. Ten million hours are spent by road officers looking for marijuana, and 10 million hours spent enforcing drunk driving laws. And every hour we spend looking for that marijuana is an hour we missed that drunk driver. We are out of position, we are handling a marijuana arrest – and so when you see a drunk driver going down your street, you dial 911, and they say “I’m sorry. That officer is tied up on a marijuana arrest.” And so, the drunk driver who is going to kill people is now essentially second in importance to the person with the little baggie of marijuana who is not intoxicated at the time.
Dean: It does seem a vast waste of our resources. Now, think of the money involved in paying for those hours as well. It’s into the billions.
Wooldridge: It’s astronomical,
the amount of money we spend doing that and, of course, all of that detracts
from our ability to effectively stop the 17,000 people killed on the nation’s
highways by drunk drivers.
We are going to take just a short break, and when we come back, I want to
talk about your continental and soon-to-be transcontinental trip across America.
Track) Musical interlude – MPP
plug – “Name That Drug!”
It’s time to play “Name That Drug!” by its side effects: persistent diarrhea, stomach upset, nausea and vomiting,
bloody urine, fever, unusual bleeding, yellow eyes or skin, unusual tiredness or
weakness, pseudomembranous colitis, dizziness, trouble breathing, and congestive
heart failure. Time’s up.
The answer: penicillin,
another FDA-approved product.
Track) To learn the truth, please visit the Marijuana Policy Project, mpp.org.
I want to let you know you are listening to Cultural Baggage on the Drug Truth
Network, and we have with us tonight Howard Wooldridge, a member of Law
Enforcement Against Prohibition. Before
we went to break, I said, Howard, tell us about this soon-to-be transcontinental
trip across the nation on your horse, Misty.
Howard Wooldridge: Well, Dean, as you know, last year Misty and I completed 3,100 miles from Georgia to Oregon and through it all, the media came looking for us. We got on TV 14 times, about 45 times in print – and that gave me the idea that this time if we went a different route, went by more big cities like L.A., Chicago, New York, we could really, really pull in a lot of new people to understand the situation with prohibition and the drug war. So, I decided that starting next March, I am going to be leaving L.A. and be headed towards the Big Apple, 3,700 miles this time, going by seven state capitols, to make publicity to draw attention to this disastrous policy of the war on drugs and to hopefully shorten by even a period of weeks or months the day when we end this policy and get back to a policy based on personal responsibility and liberty.
Now, as a traveling man, I know sometimes it is tough to keep up with
news in a certain locale, but here in Houston I think we are starting to hit the
big time. Court TV had a big to-do
about it last week – the Houston crime lab, and the scandal that is unfolding
there. I know you were there today
as Sissy Farenthold – gave a report to her.
I want to play just a little bit of that track for the audience on the
Farenthold: My name is Sissy
Farenthold, and I am here about the crime lab, and when we recited the Pledge of
Allegiance today, that last phrase seemed particularly pertinent – “for
liberty and justice for all.” I
was heartsick a few minutes ago when I learned there are 15 more DNA cases, so
I’ll leave that for further exploration and explanation.
OK, that was Sissy Farenthold. She
was a two-time state congresswoman here in Texas, and the scandal is unfolding
– 280 boxes full of 8,000 cases with body parts and fetuses, moldering in a
warehouse, when that evidence could have been presented to a Grand Jury, to a
regular jury, to keep perhaps thousands of people out of prison. Howard, we heard from some of the city council members here
that even they are beginning to say someone needs to face criminal penalties for
this. Your thoughts, please.
Wooldridge: Well, I just know that
because the crime labs – I was a police officer in Michigan and the crime labs
are being overrun across the country with these nickel-and-dime drug cases where
in some cases in some states now you have to test every one.
You simply cannot assume that the drug is what they think it is, because
of things like the sheet rock scandal up in Dallas where we thought it was
cocaine, but it turned out to be sheet rock instead.
Seventy eight people went to prison, a huge problem for Dallas PD. So now in the state of Texas, you have to test every case.
You can’t assume any part of any drug is exactly what the officers
think it was because of a field sobriety test.
This backs up the entire system. It’s
basically like a toilet that’s got too much in there and you can’t flush it,
and it just keeps building up and stinking and stinking.
And the problem is, Dean, and for your listeners, it’s not the toilet,
it’s people who are being backed up in the system, and they are rotting in
jail when they may or may not be guilty. This
is not the America I want to live in.
Well said. You know, I think
about the instances where now the District Attorney has agreed there should be a
full investigation, but he wants to appoint another prosecutor to that task, and
that’s just not right.
Wooldridge: Yeah, the fox is
guarding the hen house. Same thing up in Dallas with the sheet rock scandals.
I understand that the District Attorney up there nominated one of his
friends to investigate this guy’s office.
So, again law enforcement is reluctant to air its dirty laundry.
The “wall of silence” or “the thin blue line” – the rest of it
is still there, unfortunately. And
of course, who suffers – people who are innocent.
Well, in private you can talk to the politicians, the policemen, the
doctor, anyone with that stature with a voice that might make a difference, and
the working police officers just can’t do it because they would lose their
Howard Wooldridge: Oh yeah, I mean I wouldn’t expect any police officers out there listening to me to all of a sudden jump up at the next briefing before the shift and say, “you know, we need to legalize, regulate drugs, and get rid of the black market, eliminate drug dealers.” Because it would be career suicide. On the other hand, if you are a retired police officer, retired prosecutor, you can do it safely like I do. For as much as I have got my truck with all the signs on it, my T-shirt talks about “Cops Say Legalize Drugs…Ask Me Why” – I’ve never had a problem or ticket from anybody. Never been harassed by the cops across America – with a few exceptions, when I was with my horse.
They didn’t like the horse? Well,
OK. Well, Dr. Leroy Cigarroa (Leonides
G. Cigarroa Jr.,??), he is head of the Texas Medical Association and he
just issued a report today that they want to allow doctors to recommend
marijuana, in fact any medicine, at their discretion.
And that they want to call for more studies, though that part I find a
bit disturbing. There are dozens of
high-caliber studies already in place. But
your thoughts in that regard – is this a positive step?
Wooldridge: Well, it is a very
positive step when the head of the TMA will do that.
However, I remember 3 years ago the head of the American Medical
Association in testimony before the United States Congress urged Congress to
allow testing of marijuana to be done to answer the question once and for all,
is it effective as medicine. And of
course, 3 years later we simply have no studies in the United States because the
drug companies fear marijuana as a competitive product.
They want to keep their profits up.
No big surprise there. But
hopefully, you know, Texans are waking up. I
believe Texans are waking up to the concept that what goes on in a doctor’s
office should be no business of Austin and no business of Washington, DC.
I mean, I ask you out there, how many times when you have gotten an
opinion from a doctor, that for a second opinion you called a politician to ask
whether the doctor was right or wrong? Nobody
calls a politician for a second opinion, but that is exactly what we are doing
with medical marijuana. We are
allowing politicians to determine what is or is not medicine that a doctor can
recommend, and that is simply wrong. When
I have a problem with a doctor, I go to another doctor.
I never call a politician. That
is what we need to get back to – is keeping Austin and Washington, DC – keep
their noses out of my doctor’s office. Thank
you, very much.
Now, when I spoke with Jack Cole (sp?)
a while back, he mentioned something in the early days when they were first
trying to rev up the drug war that he and his compadres
(sp??) would go in, find a small bag, throw it in
a bigger bag with whatever they could find.
And it makes absolutely no difference when they go to these crime labs
whether it is 100% or it is 1/10th of a percent.
It is all the same.
Wooldridge: That is correct.
There is no – as far as I know, there is no standard to say, well no
matter how much other material is in there, whatever the full weight is, that is
what’s going to count in court. And
there have never been any court cases to stop that particular practice by the
All right, Howard, now you have worked with Mark Stepnoski.
You guys helped to found the Texas NORML outfit and Mark has moved, I
suppose, to Vancouver, is that right?
Wooldridge: Right, he has moved to
Vancouver, British Columbia.
I guess we all can surmise one of the reasons, but Mark was the first
professional athlete to kind of step out and speak boldly about his use of
marijuana. We had an instance, not
6 weeks ago, I don’t think even that long, where this Mr. Williams, the
football player lost his stature and actually quit the NFL.
People complained about that. But
I figure if the man has the capability and the drive, then marijuana certainly
was not a threat to his ability to do his job.
Wooldridge: Yeah, that whole issue
is so absurd on its face, Dean. If
Babe Ruth were held to the same standards as a Mark Stepnoski, it would be a
joke. I mean, Babe Ruth was a
drunk, but he was also one of the best baseball players in the history of the
game. What an athlete does off the
playing field should be the business of the athlete.
Unfortunately in this case because marijuana is illegal, Mark basically
has blown any chance he’s ever had of being a spokesman or making any money
capitalizing on his fame as an incredibly great football player.
But God bless Mark Stepnoski for having the courage, really the only one
out there that had the courage to step forth and say “I smoked it, I’m proud
of it, and I did it because that was the best drug of choice for me and my aches
and pains after a Sunday on the gridiron.” And he is also just a heck of a
human being who is now putting his energy and his money where his convictions
are, and that is to end the prohibition of cannabis and make it a legally
regulated, taxed product.
Yes, indeed I have to admire having stepped up so high as he did.
Now, as you run into Joe Blow out there, just the people you meet on your
ride with Misty or elsewhere, what is their concern?
Are they worried about gangs, or is there any real contra opinion?
What are you running into in that regard?
Wooldridge: Well the contra opinion
is how is legalizing heroin going to make the world better, safer for my
14-year-old, 15-year-old son or daughter? You
know, I was interested – I was in Portland a couple of months ago, brought in
specifically by the president of the Rotary, because his two daughters, 15 and
17, once a week one or the other had been approached by a drug dealer in the
high school with free samples of heroin. And
he brought me in specifically to say how will it be better?
And I said, because in a legal regulated market you would eliminate that
black market, you would eliminate the blood-sucking drug dealer with their free
samples of drugs to our kids, you would eliminate their drug options, their drug
jobs that they offer teenagers, which gets them killed.
And that Rotary walked away, and many do, with about half the Rotary …
we have done some little surveys – about half the people walking out of the
Rotary’s and Kiwanis clubs would legalize heroin tomorrow because they realize
that eliminating the drug dealer from our society with their violence and death
and their job options and free samples would make it a better and safer world.
Because today, Dean, as you know we have the worst of all worlds. We have a world awash in these illegal drugs and plenty of
drug dealers with their free samples out there trying to tempt our children.
And so, we can’t get rid of drugs – but we know from prohibition of
alcohol, we can get rid of the Al Capones or Pablo Escobars in 2004.
Now, we touched on this before, about the conferences you go to.
Tell us, what kind of results did you get from those cops, what were
their survey indications?
Wooldridge: Well, it is
interesting. Because of the police
officers that come up and talk to us, the vast majority, somewhere in the area
of about 60% agree with this – to legalize, regulate every drug tomorrow.
We are getting about 30% undecided and about 10% have called us bad
names. I mean, without the war on
drugs, the DEA will cease to exist. When
we make drugs a medical issue, a health matter handled by clinics and doctors,
the DEA – all 9,000 employees – will simply fade away unless they can find
another job in the Federal system. So
of course, they are going to defend the policy and the law, because it’s their
I wanted to give you the opportunity to perhaps talk about your
organization. Tell folks where they
can find out more.
Wooldridge: Well, LEAP (Law
Enforcement Against Prohibition), can be found at www.leap.cc
(stands for Clear Channel). We are
comprised of police officers, judges, prosecutors, probation officers, anyone
who is involved professionally with law enforcement. I
urge any of you out there to join. It’s
free; it’s online. Our main
mission at this point is to go to the unconverted, to speak with the people at
the Rotary’s, the Kiwanis, the churches – who kind of believe in the current
policy, but we know that their support is a mile wide and an inch deep.
And that when we can get in front of these groups, we are able to
convince many of them on the spot to change their views on the war on drugs and
drug prohibition. And of course it
costs about $35 per visit to put somebody in there. We are all volunteers. However,
we do get paid for gas and that sort of thing.
So whatever you can do to support LEAP, it would be much appreciated.
For any of you outside the Houston area, I will be headed out next year,
next March, about the 10th, headed to New York City by way of Denver,
and De Moines, and Madison, Wisconsin, Detroit.
If you are along the route, let us hear from you; see you. Just stop by and say “Hi” to Misty and me.
Next week, we are going to do a 9/11 special.
We are going to do “the war on terror is the war on drugs, with
afterburners.” And I hope to draw
a very direct and compelling correlation in that regard.
Howard, I heard Misty had lost her foal this time.
I hope that she remains well and that you guys have a great finish of
this transcontinental trip, because it is a very, very strong effort that you
Wooldridge: Thank you, Dean. I
appreciate the kind words.
You bet, you bet. I want to
ask, folks, to listen in to the 4:20 Drug War News on the net. We are talking about this Houston crime lab, but it is not
just the Houston crime lab. It’s
your town, too, most likely. And
you should read up on it. You can
read more about that if you visit my site, drugtruth.net.
Click on the 4:20 link there and it will bring you right in.
We are about done here folks. Once
again, I want to remind you that because of drug prohibition, you don’t know
what is in that bag. Please, be