Howard Wooldridge rode his horse from Savannah, Georgia to New Port Beach, Oregon to become the first man in the 21st century to ride coast to coast across America. He repeated the journey in 2005 to become the only man in history to ride both ways.
Why did he gallop across America? As a police officer, he attempted to stop the futile “War on Drugs” dragging on for the past 35 years.
War on Drugs! How is that working for us in America? Is it reducing crime? Is it reducing rates of death and disease? Is it effective in keeping drugs and drug dealers away from our children? Since 1971 law enforcement has spent one trillion dollars in order to arrest 37 million people and fill hundreds of warehouses with dope. What progress do you see? Unfortunately, drugs prove cheaper, stronger and much easier to find and buy.
My brother, Officer Howard Wooldridge, fought on the side of the ‘good guys’ for 18 years in the War on Drugs, giving him a lot of actual experience in the trenches. After much time, consternation and out-and-out frustration in not achieving a single, stated goal in the long term, he came to the conclusion that we must be doing something wrong. No matter how many dealers police took off the streets, new ones popped up to take their places. The prices for drugs kept falling, indicating an oversupply. The purity kept increasing; heroin increased from 3.6 percent to near 50 percent purity between 1980 and 2007. The prison population kept increasing until over 70 percent of all inmates stem from drug-related charges.
“Why has my profession been unable to make a dent?” Wooldridge asked. “It has not been for a lack of trying. Thousands of police officers have been shot and hundreds killed. First, understand that drug dealers accept as a condition of employment death and long prison terms. We know there is an inexhaustible supply of people who will risk death to make the huge profits that prohibition generates. A second major reason is that when someone buys an illegal drug from a dealer, nobody calls 911 to report the ‘crime.’ It is very difficult for us to catch suspects when the phone does not ring. Neither the buyer nor the seller sees themselves as a ‘victim.’”
Meanwhile, al Qaeda earns three billion this year from drug sales. We turned third world thugs into billionaires that can and do buy governments. Our prisons burst with non-violent offenders while murderers, rapists and child molesters, not subject to mandatory minimums, enjoy early releases due to over-crowding. The only thing to show for this terrible policy is that today after 36 years and a trillion tax dollars spent, the situation is worse.
“Drug gangs have spread like the plague out of the large cities and into medium and even small cities,” Officer Wooldridge said. “Young teens join gangs to make ‘easy,’ big money selling drugs. Fifteen year olds are shot and killed every week because drug prohibition gives them this job option. A policy which many say is to protect kids actually causes hundreds of deaths a year and tens of thousands of destroyed young lives.”
Wooldridge continued, “During alcohol prohibition at the beginning of the 20th century, rates of murder and police corruption in the United States rose to the highest levels in its history. The year we ended that prohibition those statistics fell to a low ebb where they remained until we declared the war on drugs 37 years later. Thanks to that war we have surpassed both those figures with the New Prohibition.”
The unintended consequences of this terrible war destroys the lives of generations of America's youth. How many people do you know who have used an illegal drug, then put the drugs behind them and gone on to lead productive lives? U.S. presidents, many members of our legislative bodies, tens of thousands of police officers make the list. With imprisonment, those possibilities vanish. You can overcome an addiction, but you will never get over a conviction.
“Until we end Prohibition Two, we should be offering treatment on demand and effective education,” Wooldridge said. “The education has to be based in fact and not emotional scare tactics. The treatment needs to voluntary; forced treatment is not much different than some government’s attempts at brainwashing. If substances were regulated and taxed, adequate monies could be raised for treatment programs and the glamour appeal of the ‘forbidden fruit’ would be reduced.”
Today, my brother Howard heads up a task force in Washington, DC to educate and enlighten congressmen at the highest levels. He works for a better future for all Americans. He can be reached at: Education Specialist, Law Enforcement Against Prohibition, www.leap.cc , Washington, DC. He speaks at colleges, Rotary, Kiwanis and Lions Clubs across America. He presents at political conferences in Washington. firstname.lastname@example.org
The mission of LEAP is to reduce the multitude of unintended harmful consequences resulting from fighting the war on drugs and to lessen the incidence of death, disease, crime, and addiction by ultimately ending drug prohibition.
“Envision a world where crime is cut in half, terrorists don’t make money selling drugs and kids are not employed in the drug trade,” Wooldridge said. “Envision a world where the police focus on DUI, child predators and terrorists. Imagine a world where if you have a drug problem, you see a doctor not a judge. All are possible, when we find the courage to end our Prohibition.”