• Congressman Garrett (VA-R)

  • Gov. Chris Christy (NJ-R)

  • Colorado 2012

  • California Field Work, Prop 19

Willamette Week: May 26, 2010: Why this ex-cop wants marijuana legalized.



It’s not every day an ex-cop rides into town encouraging the legalization of

And that, of course, makes Howard Wooldridge just the kind of atypical
advocate whom supporters of marijuana’s legalization like to present to
reporters. We confess, his résumé made us curious.

Here’s his background: Wooldridge served 18 years on the police force in
Bath Township, an 8,000-resident municipality in Michigan. He retired in
1994, frustrated by what he says was too much law enforcement devoted to
marijuana busts and too little to other substance-abuse problems like
drunken driving.

Famous for cross-county campaigns with his horse Misty, the 59-year-old
Wooldridge has spent the past 13 years in Washington, D.C., with a group of
like-minded current and former officials called Law Enforcement Against

Wooldridge visited Oregon as state legalization supporters are gathering
signatures to put a measure on the November ballot that would legalize and
tax marijuana. The Oregon measure is Initiative 73.

*WW: Do you think most police officers would agree with you that legalizing
pot is a good idea? *

Howard Wooldridge: In my travels, about 60 percent to 65 percent would say
legalize and tax marijuana. They have the same experience as me: 20 years,
30 years, and never being to a call generated by marijuana. It’s like, ‘This
is stupid. We’ve got better things to do.” But if you get them in front of a
camera, a reporter, they’ll say marijuana is a dangerous drug and we don’t
want to condone it and make people think it’s OK, so we need to keep this
thing illegal.

*How can you never have had a marijuana-related call in your time as a cop?

We’re dispatched to a call…there’s a family fight, a disturbance, a
whatever. Cannabis consumption generated zero [of those calls]. People
drinking? 1,300. The prohibition of cannabis caused one murder in my
township, and one armed robbery and shooting. The bad guys were coming in to
rob the marijuana growers, and the gunfight blah blah blah. But that’s due
to prohibition.

*So why don’t more cops speak up? *

 Ask cops, “Do you think you have a conflict of interest?” If they say no,
challenge it. We depend on prohibition for a big, fat overtime check,
special grants from Salem and Washington, D.C., to go after these drug
dealers. Task forces, marijuana in the fall, helicopters flying around. Just
your knock-and-talk drug busts down here. These are all monies we get to
enforce prohibition. Absolutely, we have a financial interest to continuing
this thing.

*Do you use marijuana?*

I have not smoked in 32 years. I smoked for about seven years, starting
around my 19th birthday. I stopped just before going into the police academy
because I figured it was time to grow up. But I learned from being around
hundreds of people who were using cannabis like I was, that the harm
associated with the drug is down to almost nothing, for both the user and
the people around them. So it’s just not worth police time. We’ve got better
things to do.

*If you stopped because it was time to grow up, why do you favor legalizing
it for others?*

The war on drugs has failed. After 40 years, a trillion dollars [and] the
arrest of 40 million people on drug charges, drugs are cheaper, stronger and
readily available. The idea that if it just saves one life, that will make
it worth it? No. Because as we’re trying to save one person, we’re missing
the drunken drivers, the child molesters, people flying airplanes into
buildings…we’re causing hundreds of thousands of Americans to be crime

*Which state is most likely to legalize marijuana, and when?*

It’s going to be California, and it’s going to be this year. The polls are
still tracking in the 56th percentile.

*What do you think the prospects are in Oregon?*

If it’s on the ballot this year, you’ve also got an excellent chance of
making it legal, regulated and taxed in Oregon, because the people here have
had a long experience with medical cannabis, and realized the sun still
comes up every morning. And for all the yelling and screaming in law
enforcement, where are all the massive problems, death and destruction
caused by the medical marijuana program?

    *FACT: Supporters of Initiative 28, which would allow medical marijuana
patients to buy marijuana legally for the first time from dispensaries in
Oregon, turned in more than 110,000 signatures last week. Oregon law
requires 82,769 of these signatures to be valid in order for the initiative
to make the November ballot. *

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