Hosted by Dean Becker

Engineered by Steve Nolin

Transcript by Diana Hajer

Guests:         Howard Wooldridge, member of Law Enforcement Against Prohibition (LEAP;

Dean:   Welcome to Cultural Baggage.  Our guest for the evening is Howard Wooldridge, a member of the Law Enforcement Against Prohibition,  But first, the news.  Earlier today, I spoke with Bill Piper of the Drug Policy Alliance ( 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.

 Bill Piper:  Well, it’s significant for two reasons.  One, we’re running it in DC

at 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 out of British Columbia, this is Richard Cowan.

 Richard 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 individual freedom.

 Dean:  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.

 (Audio Track) Intro and Poppygate – Glenn Greenway:  This week’s

Poppygate 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.

 Howard Wooldridge:  Thank you, it’s good to be here.

 Dean:  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.

 Howard 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.

 Dean:  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.

 Howard 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.

 Dean:  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.

 Howard 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 drug war.

 Dean:  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 that interaction.

 Howard 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.

 Dean:  Howard, you have studied the history of this drug war and you have been in the trenches, as you were just speaking of.

 Howard Wooldridge:  Right.

 Dean:  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?

 Howard 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.

 Howard 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 home.

 Dean:  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.

 Howard Wooldridge:  Right.

 Dean:  And was that part of your focus – what brought you to become a member of LEAP?

 Howard 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.

 Dean:  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.

 Howard 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.

 Dean:  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.

 Howard Wooldridge:  OK.

 (Audio Track)  Musical interlude – MPP plug – “Name That Drug!”

 Dean:  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.

 (Audio Track) To learn the truth, please visit the Marijuana Policy Project,

OK, 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.

 Dean:  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 network.

 Sissy 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.

 Dean:  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.

 Howard 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.

 Dean:  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.

 Howard 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.

 Dean:  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 job.

 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.

 Dean:  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?

 Howard 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.

 Dean:  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.

 Howard Wooldridge:  Sure.

 Dean:  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.

 Howard 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 prosecutors.

 Dean:  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?

 Howard Wooldridge:  Right, he has moved to Vancouver, British Columbia. 

 Dean:  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.

 Howard 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.

 Dean:  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?

 Howard 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.

 Dean:  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?

 Howard 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 paycheck.

 Dean:  I wanted to give you the opportunity to perhaps talk about your organization.  Tell folks where they can find out more.

 Howard Wooldridge:  Well, LEAP (Law Enforcement Against Prohibition), can be found at (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.

 Dean:  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 are doing.

 Howard Wooldridge:  Thank you, Dean.  I appreciate the kind words.

 Dean:  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,  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 careful.

 (Audio Track) ending.