2007 April 23
Copyright © Brian Wright
The Coffee Coaster™
LEAPing Forward for Freedom:
Retired police detective rides high
in the saddle to end the drug war
Not high as in buzzed, rather as someone
taking the high road whether he's on a
horse or not. Howard J. Wooldridge
reminds me of Yul Brenner in the classic The
Magnificent Seven (based on the even more
classic Seven Samurai) leading a valiant
effort of honorable warriors to liberate a
community from an entrenched pack of
In 1997, after taking an early retirement from police work in Michigan and moving to Texas, Howard became a bilingual, now trilingual, drug-reform activist seeking an end to "the war on freedom" represented by the War on Drugs (WOD).
Five years ago, with four other law enforcement professionals, he founded LEAP (Law Enforcement Against Prohibition), the premier organization of peace officers advocating practical drug legalization in a conventional regulatory framework. To popularize his cause, Howard struck out on a cross-country trek in 2003 and again in 2005, with his trusty horse Misty.
He now serves as LEAP's education specialist in the US Congress. He still travels for LEAP. My freedom-people contingent was pleased to catch up with his presentation on Michigan State University 's campus, courtesy of the Department of Writing, Rhetoric and American Cultures.
Instructors Suzanne Webb and Dundee Lackey included The Howard Talk as part of their students' first-year writing curricula (WRA 115 and WRA 110, respectively).
Howard, tall and lean with boots and a Stetson—definitely a sendover from central casting—launches his presentation forthrightly. He exudes this childlike quality of "square cool," a cop who cares. Mincing no words:
"The bottom line is after 35 years,
35 million arrests, a trillion dollars in tax expenditures, tens of thousands of turf-war killings and bystander tragedies, drugs are now cheaper, stronger, and easier to buy
than ever. 'The net effect of a drug bust is
the taxpayer builds another prison...'
not to mention building obscene financial
portfolios for gangsters and terrorists."
This MSU college-age crowd is digging it, even laughing at the corny jokes and aphorisms. Howard lays it down, cites the facts behind The Problem, delivers the straightforward solution, sprinkled liberally with quotations from the ages and the sages:
If you're going to start talking the truth, keep one foot in the saddle of your fastest horse.
— Chinese proverb
In war, truth is the first casualty. — Aeschylus
Some facts qua healing the truth wounds:
• WOD costs to US governments this year will be $70 billion
• 75% of felony crime is drug related
• Drug trade internationally is $400 billion per year
• 720,000 drug-related arrests last year, mainly for marijuana
• $44 billion for prisons annually, 80% inmates drug-related
• A police state looms with 324,000 cops, mostly focused
on drug-related offenses; corruption is rampant; they have
a license to steal, prosecutors in many communities receive
10% of all civil forfeitures (!!!!)
Michigan and Ohio with their budgetary problems are the canary in the mineshaft. Michigan has roughly a $1 billion deficit with a $2 billion budget for corrections; if only half the corrections budget applies to "people who sold Willie Nelson a joint," we solve the budget problem by liberation.
Regulating and taxing a medical and recreational marijuana trade in Michigan would bring $200 million in state revenues. What do we want: schools or prisons?
Because he hasn't talked about the opportunities in agricultural hemp, I bring it up in the Q&A—Michigan State as a land grant college should certainly be in the forefront of agricultural research into detailed prospects for the coming trillion-dollar hemp economy.
All in all, a great event, a lot of positive input from the young adults and from the college kids, too. :) As a cause-oriented child of the 60s, I'd like to see more enthusiasm and passion in today's Youth of America, but tonight is a LEAP forward on that front as well. We're not generating the excitement of a Barack Obama cheerleading speech or of a court inquest into who impregnated Anna Nicole Smith... yet. But the day is young.
Howard Wooldridge is the real deal. Like so many of his allies in the LEAP organization, he lays his badge of courage on the line for Constitutional Liberty. He's the truest of patriots:
In times of change, the Patriot is a scarce man; brave, hated and scorned. When his cause succeeds, however, the timid join him, for then it costs nothing to be a Patriot. — Mark Twain
Patriot, and I hope the nexus of a cultural breakthrough. For Howard is as natural a candidate for libertarian celebrity as I believe we'll ever see. He clicks with the kids, and he connects
with the Boomers and the Greatest Generation. The
photo on the left shows
Howard with one of
the bright-eyed student
activists. On Howard's
left is esteemed Michigan
NORML leader Richard
If you have the opportunity soon, don't miss him at a classroom, Jaycee meeting, or VFW hall near you. As we approach the end of the WOD and freedom people storm the media Bastille, his public chats will become standing room only.
Please feel free to comment.