My brother Howard Wooldridge served as a decorated police officer and detective in Lansing, Michigan for 18 years. During that time, he collared killers, drunk drivers, child molesters, rapists, wife beaters and drug dealers. What he learned launched him on a crusade to stop the federal government’s useless 35 year “War on Drugs.”
My brother stands so passionate about his cause that he rode his horse Misty 3,300 miles coast to coast across America in 2005. To gain attention, his sweat-stained T-shirt read, “Cops Say Legalize Drugs: Ask Me Why.”
The drug war costs American taxpayers $70 billion a year and over the past 35 years, costs approach a trillion dollars. Result? Drugs remain CHEAPER and MORE available than 35 years ago.
“The war on drugs,” said Howard Wooldridge, one of the founders of Law Enforcement Against Prohibition at www.leap.cc. “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? Is it making America safer and more prosperous? As my profession chases drugs, what are we missing? These are important questions as this prohibition approach costs us taxpayers some 70 billion dollars this year.”
Wooldridge said, “As a police officer, I fought on the side of the ‘good guys’ for 18 years in the “War on Drugs,” giving me ample 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, I came to the conclusion that we must be doing something wrong. It seemed no matter how many dealers we took off the streets, new ones immediately popped up to take their places. The prices for drugs kept falling, indicating an oversupply. The purity became better; 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 are there on some drug-related charge. The only thing we have to show for this terrible policy is that today after 36 years and a trillion tax dollars spent, illegal drugs are cheaper, stronger and very easy for our kids to buy.”
In those 18 years, I listened to my brother Howard’s frustrations each time we sat down for dinner. He bemoaned the senselessness of the drug war. The people within the department now work it to keep their jobs and nothing else. The “War on Drugs” exists to exist.
“Why has my profession been unable to make a dent?” Howard Wooldridge asked. “It has not been for lack of trying. Thousands of police officers have been shot and hundreds killed. We have arrested 36 million Americans for drug possession, use or sale. First, understand that drug dealers accept as a condition of employment--death and long prison terms. We know there is an inexhaustible number of people who will risk death to make 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 buyers nor the sellers see themselves as ‘victims.’
“Drug gangs have spread like the plague out of the large cities and into medium and even small cities. 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. Many Hispanic members are the first generation of immigrants who don’t want to work hard like their parents. The role model in the barrio is the rich drug dealer, not the hard-working parent. A policy which many say is to protect kids actually causes hundreds of deaths a year and tens of thousands of destroyed young lives.”
For any curious Americans, MS-13 gangs from El Salvador, now numbering 15,000 members, operate in 33 states according to a recent Newsweek report. They recruit our kids with easy money. Once in the gang, their lives stand at risk.
“On our borders customs officers spend huge amounts of time looking for smuggled drugs which allows them less time for catching the millions who cross illegally,” Howard Wooldridge said. “The Coast Guard is focused on drugs and not the ships which bring over many hundreds of illegals in ships. In the century of 9/11 we should be focusing on threats to the nation and instead we are heavily engaged in a nearly four decade, failed policy of drug prohibition.
“The unintended consequences of this terrible war are needlessly destroying 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? US presidents, many members of our legislative bodies, tens of thousands of police officers have done exactly that. With imprisonment, those possibilities are eliminated. You can get over an addiction, but you will never get over a conviction.
“Now envision a world where all drugs sell in state-regulated stores, not on street corners by teens which gets them killed. Imagine a world where the federal police focus on securing our borders from armed and unarmed invasion. Envision a world where terrorists don’t buy weapons from money made selling drugs. Imagine a world where felony crime drops over 50 percent and local police focus on drunk drivers, child predators and terrorists. Envision a world where if one day you or a loved one has a drug problem, you see a doctor not a judge. America can have this world, if it repeals its laws of the New Prohibition.”
Officer Howard J. Wooldridge (retired), Education Specialist, Law Enforcement Against Prohibition (www.leap.cc), Washington DC