The campaign to legalize marijuana use in California will be rolling into Turlock today, or rather trotting in.Howard Wooldridge, a retired police detective from Michigan, will be riding into town on his horse Misty to help promote passage of California’s Prop 19. Wooldridge is one of the founding members of L.E.A.P. — Law Enforcement Against Prohibition — a nonprofit organization of law enforcement, prison officials, judges, and prosecutors who advocate for regulation, rather than prohibition. Their mission statement says, “the existing drug policies have failed in their intended goals of addressing the problems of crime, drug abuse, addiction, juvenile drug use, stopping the flow of illegal drugs into this country and the internal sale and use of illegal drugs. By fighting a war on drugs the government has increased the problems of society and made them far worse. A system of regulation rather than prohibition is a less harmful, more ethical and a more effective public policy.”As one of their founding members in 2002, Wooldridge has been saddling up and hitting the road to voice his support for legalization efforts. He has traveled from coast to coast on horseback twice. His current trek through California to promote passage of Prop 19 began Sept. 6 in Eureka and is scheduled to end Sept. 30 in Fremont.Prop 19, if passed in November, would make it legal for individuals 21 years and older to use, grow, and possess up to an ounce of marijuana for personal use. Additionally, it would let local and state governments regulate and tax retail sales of marijuana."At each step of my law enforcement career — from beat officer up to chief of police in two major American cities — I saw the futility of our marijuana prohibition laws," said Joseph McNamara, former police chief in San Jose and Kansas City, Mo., now a speaker for Law Enforcement Against Prohibition, at a press conference Monday. "But our marijuana laws are much worse than ineffective: they waste valuable police resources and also create a lucrative black market that funds cartels and criminal gangs with billions of tax-free dollars."As Wooldridge has traveled through California, he said he has been greeted with an “overwhelmingly positive” reception from communities he has visited and spoken with about marijuana legalization.“People understand that the thin blue line is getting thinner and that law enforcement has to focus their efforts on catching the bad guys and not the Willie Nelsons and Snoop Doggs of the world,” Wooldridge said.Wooldridge’s own journey towards legalization and regulation began during his tenure with the Bath Township police force in Michigan. Over the course of his 18-year career, Wooldridge said he saw more and more of the focus shift away from public safety towards personal safety.“It was a culmination of things that changed my thinking, but my turning point was when I was investigating a home burglary that had been committed by a crack addict, Wooldridge said. “This addict had stolen an elderly man’s grandfather’s pocket watch to score more drugs and this was an irreplaceable item for this man. I just thought ‘why don’t we let this guy get as much crack as he wants, so that he’ll stop causing so many crime victims.’ It became clear that what we are doing is absolutely nuts.”Wooldridge will be making his stop in Turlock from 8 a.m. to noon today near Monte Vista Drive and Highway 99.
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