Entering its fifth year of existence, Law Enforcement Against Prohibition (LEAP) continues to expand its message to North America and beyond. Our raison d’etre (“reason to be”) is education. LEAP is made up of criminal justice professionals speaking out against the failed war on drugs. Our mission is to reduce the crime, death and disease related to drug prohibition, so we put our LEAP speakers in contact with audiences several times each day via service clubs, media interviews, law enforcement conferences and tabling at county fairs.
Given the support we have received from individuals and organizations, LEAP has increased the size of our Speaker’s Bureau in order to book more presentations than ever. Many people understand current drug enforcement policy is completely ineffective in stopping the supply of drugs and the proliferation of drug dealers. LEAP’s “bread and butter” comes from speaking to Rotary, Kiwanis and Chamber of Commerce groups. They often need speakers on a regular basis, which makes it relatively simple to put a LEAP representative in front of an audience. Also, their members are influential in community and state politics. LEAP speakers are also offered as a ready source of expert opinion to each Congressional and Senate office.
Our speakers address tough questions posed by audiences, such as the prospect that millions of people would become addicted to hard drugs if the government legalized and regulated them – a common misperception encouraged by the government’s anti-drug propaganda, and one that must be repudiated by educating the public on a regular basis. The key to ending the disastrous policy of Prohibition is to find, talk to and convert those who are sitting on the fence. Radio will receive increased importance as a target for LEAP this year. Our voices will reach the ears of millions via interviews on programs primarily heard by the “unconverted” and generate lively debates with those who call in – presenting us the opportunity to deconstruct any lies. Some callers still clamor for simply “killing anyone selling drugs” and would like to see South America turned into a Drug War wasteland; however, the majority now admits that LEAP’s call for “personal responsibility as a cornerstone principal of adult drug use” is closer to their individual outlook.
Throughout 2006, LEAP testified before eight state legislatures, providing a law enforcement perspective on bills outside the box of more punishment and prisons. The latest increase in our reach began late in 2006 when LEAP was given the funds to put Howard Wooldridge, the “Cowboy Cop”, on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC as an Education Specialist. Now dressed in his “Sunday Best” cowboy hat, boots and buckle, he is visiting each of the 535 Congressional offices on Capitol Hill, and will also testify before various committees in the Maryland Legislature. During 15 to 45 minute meetings at Congressional offices, Howard makes the staffer aware of the existence of LEAP, and prohibitionists will be made aware of what they will face at future hearings – meaning that for the first time in the 36 years, when a DEA agent encourages Congress to spend more money, a LEAP speaker will be there to say “Don’t waste money on a campaign of false hope!”
The roadblocks inside DC are formidable. Several offices stated that because their districts contain many federal prisons, they won’t support anything that reduces prison population. One staffer complained that if cannabis were legal, the farmers who grew it would eventually want a crop subsidy – and others have stated their sincere belief that simply shooting every dealer would solve the problem! On the positive side, staffers often agree with the LEAP position, and talk to their boss about our interim suggestions to reduce crime, death and disease. Over a dozen staffers have offered suggestions on how to move legislation forward – even as they admitted their boss would never support any changes. Support can come from every level!
In 2007, Jack Cole and other speakers will be testifying before state legislatures, and in Canada’s capital city, Ottawa. A courageous active-duty officer, Bradley Jardis of New Hampshire, has already testified before his state legislature on a marijuana decriminalization bill. LEAP hopes that more active duty officers across North America will follow Officer Jardis’ lead! LEAP is also pushing for a national blue-ribbon Commission to study prohibition, promoting treatment as opposed to incarceration, launching a new educational approach to prevent teenage drug use and endorsing an arrest-free 911 call for alcohol and drug overdoses. These proposals will help establish Howard as a serious player “Inside the Beltway” and demonstrate LEAP’s commitment to its mission statement: “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.”
LEAP has many volunteers who help with our media, research and speaking engagements. If you have even a few hours to donate once a week, that help would be appreciated. You will have the satisfaction of doing your part to change laws. Engage others by wearing a shirt that draws a person into conversation, like our very effective LEAP shirts that read “Cops Say Legalize Drugs – Ask Me Why”. Book a table at your farmer’s market on Saturdays, or at the county fair, for LEAP information to be handed out; call into radio programs in your area and tell the listeners why a controlled and regulated drug market is better than the illegal industry controlled by organized crime. Even better, convince radio or TV personalities to feature a LEAP speaker as a guest on their program. If the station has a Spanish or French format, no problem: Howard can handle the issue in three languages! Make regular calls to your local and federal politicians. Even better, visit them when they are not in session – one can often receive ten to fifteen minutes of face time. (Not sure what to say? Contact Howard Wooldridge by email for some talking points and tips: [email protected]) LEAP now has speakers in 32 states and several provinces in Canada, so get involved in helping LEAP spread “the word of the law”!
Howard became involved in drug reform in 1997 wanting to make a difference with his credentials as a law enforcement officer. Misty is his one-eyed horse, and the unofficial mascot of LEAP, and in 2003, Howard rode her from Georgia to Oregon spreading word that drug prohibition was a disastrous policy for America. In 2005 he rode across America from Los Angeles to New York City to convince America that prohibition must end. In 2006, a congenital defect in Misty’s front right ankle left her in pain and hopping on three legs most of the year. Though cannabis was used as therapy for horse injuries generations ago, present-day laws prohibit Howard from using it as pain relief for Misty. If anyone knows of legislation that would allow farm animals to be treated with cannabis, Howard will travel anywhere in North America at his own expense to testify in favor of such a law!