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Howard on Keeping on a-Comin

Monday, August 15th, 2011

“I got into police work back in Michigan because of the cops and robbers stuff. In the 70’s, when I put on a badge and a gun, and shoved six bullets in a 357, it was about catching the bad guys. Police officers were there to protect the public safety, and stop those who killed, raped, and robbed.

I tell people that we should not be wasting our time running after Willie Nelson, Snoop Dogg, Charlie Sheen, and Rush Limbaugh for using a green plant.

“Things changed in the mid-80’s when the government enacted the Civil Asset Forfeiture Law. After that, looking for drugs became a money business. Cops were encouraged to move away from protect and serve and onto search and arrest by the lure of bringing in money to the department. Every year, civil asset forfeiture brings in about $3.6 billion and helps the police departments buy grown-up toys for good-old boys and take trips to Florida in January.

“As an officer, you salute and go, but I had a real issue with my colleagues spending their time searching cars for bags of pot while there were drunk drivers and pedophiles out roaming around. You might have to search 12 cars to find one bag. Then, you would try and get the owner to tell you where he got it and move up the chain. I tell you, this took hundreds and hundreds of hours. No matter who or how many we arrested, they were always replaced immediately.

“For me, the drug war became so stupid and full of nonsense, but I never thought much about getting involved with it. Then, after 18 years of a badge and a gun, my wife got an opportunity to move to Texas.  I had done everything but shoot someone and get shot at, and I wanted a new challenge. I speak three languages and I wanted to use them, so off we went.

“While in Texas, I got into this work through my interest in overpopulation, which is the idea that we have too many people on the planet. To make a long story short, a guy contacted me through a letter to the editor I wrote. When he found out I was a cop, he lobbied me to get on the board of his cause, which was ending the drug war. I told him this was never going to end. He said, ‘Well, the Berlin Wall fell down. Who thought that would happen?’ As a kid, I had been back-and-forth through that wall several times. He had me. 

“I decided to take an adventure and ride my horse from Savannah, Georgia to Newport, Oregon wearing a t-shirt that said, “Cops say legalize pot, ask me how.” It was great marketing and I would let people come to me. I am a zealot, but not a proselytizer on the issue. I had so many great conversations, and also had people getting right in my face and saying, ‘Blank you and the horse you rode in on.’ In 2005, I made a proposal to Law Enforcement Against Prohibition (LEAP) to do another ride from Los Angeles to New York City in seven months. After doing that, I came to D.C. to be a full-time education specialist on the drug issue.

“When I first started this work, the wind was in my face. In 2006, when I walked into Republican offices, I would get mostly frosty, and sometimes neutral receptions. The Democrats were more polite, but people did not want to touch the issue. Even if the policy made sense, no one wanted to touch the politics. After the Ron Raul revolution in 2008, my world here flipped. Now with people making a push for more state’s rights, I feel like the wind is behind me.

“I tell people that we should not be wasting our time running after Willie Nelson, Snoop Dogg, Charlie Sheen, and Rush Limbaugh for a green plant. My job as a police officer is not to fix stupid or be part of the moral police. Let these idiots do what they want in the privacy of their own home, but let’s regulate and tax all drugs and make them available in state regulated stores.

“Again, from a policy discussion, this is a no brainer. If the aides in Congress could vote, I would be out of a job. They recognize that we should not leave dangerous drugs in the hands of criminals. The problem is the politicians who are too afraid to make good policy choices if it means losing one vote or the money of the interests. This all happens despite the fact that the war on drugs has been the most destructive, dysfunctional, and immoral policy since slavery and Jim Crow. Hispanics are three times more likely, and African-Americans are eight times more likely to be targeted by it than whites. And, tens of thousands of people are killed in Mexico every year for our failed policies. Sadly, as long as the dead people are someplace else, it doesn’t really matter here.

“I am one guy with a cowboy hat and a good looking horse fighting this drug war against an elephant. I am inspired by a great quote from a Texas Ranger named Captain McDonald, ‘No man in the wrong can stand up against a fellow that’s in the right and keeps on a-comin.’ Well, you are looking at a guy who keeps on a-comin. I have worn out three pairs of boots and done over 2,000 presentations in my five years. It may not be done in my lifetime, but I will pass along the baton when I can’t do it anymore. Women’s suffrage took 8o years, but it got done. This, too, will get done.”

Howard “Cowboy” Wooldridge is a retired police detective, co-founder of  Law Enforcement Against Prohibition, and the Washington, D.C. representative of Citizens Opposing Prohibition (COP). If interested in getting involved or learning more, you can email Howard at He also asks that if you have been affected by or want to end the drug war, to please write your representative.

Working through his fourth pair of boots.

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  1. Out of all the people you’ve interviewed, this one has to be the least coherent. If he wants to get his point across he needs to communicate more clearly!

    Comment by c — August 15, 2011 @ 10:13 am

  2. You are doing Gods work, Howard. We lose too many innocents to this stupid war. You have my support.

    Comment by Troy — August 15, 2011 @ 10:20 am

  3. @C Seems pretty clear to me. Drug policy is archaic and racist. Not sure how that was lost on you.

    Comment by Cliff — August 15, 2011 @ 10:22 am

  4. Why is this blog supporting drug use? In so many other stories you show how people’s lives were ruined by drugs and drug violence. Giving this man a platform goes against all of them. Drugs are terrible and ruin communities and we need to keep them illegal. If you or Howard don’t believe me come visit my neighborhood hood and I will show you how crack destroyed Shaw. I hope that you will both come to wisdom and leave this nonsense behind.

    Comment by Robert — August 15, 2011 @ 10:32 am

  5. We learn that drugs are bad, but never that drug policy is bad, too. We are fighting a failed war. It is time to legalize drugs and focus on this nation’s real problems.

    Comment by LegalizeIt — August 15, 2011 @ 11:51 am

  6. Find out why more and more cops, judges, and prosecutors who have fought on the front lines of the “war on drugs” are standing up and saying we need to legalize and regulate all drugs to help solve our economic, crime, and public health problems:

    Comment by Tom — August 15, 2011 @ 8:27 pm

  7. @Robert: No where does this article, nor anyone in the drug policy reform world, state that drugs are not harmful or that drugs should be more widely available. However, surveys show that underage teens can more easily obtain weed than alcohol despite all the spending on this failed, racist “war”. Just imagine how much better treatment could be if people could walk into a clinic without feeling like a criminal. Consider how many of those deaths could have been prevented if there weren’t guns and gangs involved, but rather pharmacists and clinicians.

    Sure, some drugs are bad, but drug prohibition is a net negative for society.

    Comment by Randall — August 15, 2011 @ 11:12 pm

  8. […]  Blog 1:  Howard Keep on a Comin – […]

    Pingback by Stories from the week of August 25, 2011 « On The Hill « Citizens Opposing Prohibition — August 30, 2011 @ 10:10 pm

  9. @Robert: Your story is told by many across our great nation. Communities are blighted by drugs. Gangs and violence are fueled by easy money ‘earned’ by drug dealers. Teens are recruited by dealers to help expand their customer base, attracted by easy cash and the splashy toys it can buy. Crime escalates as addicts rob and steal to fund their habit.

    If you take a step back and examine why this happens, a common thread emerges. To paraphrase Bill Clinton, “It’s the money, stupid.” It’s not drugs that destroy communities; it’s drug money. And it’s our drug policies (prohibition) that puts the money in drugs to start with.

    I’m not saying that drugs are good, just that prohibition makes the drug problem far worse than it otherwise would be.

    Comment by casterle — September 27, 2011 @ 9:56 am

  10. @SimonActually according to my grafdnather there were lots of addicts when those were over-the-counter drugs, especially just after WWII.Everybody hated them because the chances of talking with anyone of them was minute. They scolded you, acted like “victims” to plead for your money$, or, worse, attacked you.Stories about these people were avoided (though you will find stories about “famous” people finding their end that way, or ironic endings, such as the daughter of the director of an alcohol bottling plant dieing from mixing cocaine and alcohol, that sort of stuff). Contact with people like this was massively avoided (for good reason).You see, it doesn’t matter to those 10% how cheap drugs are. There are never enough. They’re never cheap enough, and they will do anything, anything at all to get them (a fact that was frequently exploited by criminals even when drugs were legal).Have you ever seen an addict ? Trust me if the drug war actually encouraged addiction, even just a bit, like you keep claiming, people would be arming themselves regardless of the government’s opinion on the matter. And they would take some serious firepower.Please take a look around you, if you can’t visit an actual clinic, at least watch a movie like “trainspotting”, and take a look at what drugs do to people.Also I find your reasoning flawed “people do it (drugs) anyway, so we should allow it”, after all, the very same argument is perfectly applicable to murder.

    Comment by Veeks — October 21, 2012 @ 5:24 pm

  11. To: c– & Robert–

    Howard communicates just fine and is far from “incoherent”. C you have neurological cognitive problems and should see someone about it.

    Robert regarding drugs, just what do you think alcohol and tobacco are? Both are two of the most insidiously addictive and destructive substances on earth and both are legal. Marijuana doesn’t even begin to be in either category and should have long, long ago been legalized for citizens to grow in their homes, apts., and rooms for personal use only. The pot plant can be grown at home just like any other plant and it is my belief because of this that citizens should not be restricted to being forced to buy marijuana from the private sector or the government, but should restricted from growing large quantities to sell versus growing small amounts for personal use. Millions of lives have been unnecessarily ruined by criminal records for personal possession and use of small quantities of marijuana. It is wrong. And, the only reason federal, state, city and county governments have long refused to legalize marijuana is because they couldn’t figure out exactly how to completely fully control and regulate the growth, sale / tax revenues of this weed that virtually anyone could easily grow at home just as they do regular house plants and there is also major concern about the impact of wide scale legalized Marijuana use on the multi-billion dollar liquor/wine and pharmaceutical industries. It’s all about the government and private sector business together figuring and and working to control and gain profit from Marijuana legalization and sale ensuring that regular citizens are somehow effectively prevented from ever being able to acquire seeds or young plants to freely grow their own Marijuana and not be forced to buy it. So, certain governments have started out begun with bull-crap “Medicinal Marijuana Center” dispensary businesses, which of course allow and require medical patients to have prescriptions from their doctors to buy the weed for pain relief and other medical purposes still giving the government and private business more time to somehow make it impossible for citizens to grown their own at home. Criminal charges for use and possession of Marijuana have never been because the weed is dangerous in any way. It simply isn’t. It has always foremost really been about how the government and private sector would find a way to exclusively effectively lock-down monopolize, regulate, control, and make money from the sale of Marijuana with full ability to prevent ordinary citizens from growing their own for personal use or to sell. It will be interesting to see how this will go down given I wonder exactly how the government / private sector will effectively prevent citizens’ access to Marijuana plant seeds or seedlings. My bet is that they’ll do something really scientifically wild and incredibly disturbing such as completely permanently altering all different types and seed bearing Marijuana plants in some awful way that would also make government/private sector grown/regulated Marijuana addictive as well. Also, I am sure medicinal marijuana patients find absolutely no viable Marijuana seeds within their prescribed weed that could ever be used to grow their own. Governments and big business are capable are absolutely anything. This why the world is on self-destruct.

    Comment by DAD — December 24, 2012 @ 9:44 pm

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