Howard Wooldridge looks like the Marlboro man: rangy and a little tired. Actually, he claims to be more of a Paul Revere.
He and his pinto horse, Misty, rode into Cape Girardeau Friday, 1,000 miles along on a journey to deliver a message across America. The message is printed on Wooldridge's T-shirt. "Cops Say Legalize Pot. Ask Me Why," it says.
If it's shocking to see a retired police officer promoting the legalization of marijuana, that's partly the point.
"The public knows the war on drugs is a failure," the 51-year-old from Fort Worth, Texas, says. "But everyone is scared to stand up and say, 'The emperor has no clothes on.'"
He is one of the founders of Law Enforcement Against Prohibition, a new national organization composed of present and former law enforcement officers who support regulation and control of drugs instead of prohibition. They model themselves after the Vietnam Veterans Against the War, but they oppose the drug war.
Enforcing drug laws has done nothing to decrease the availability of drugs, he says, and "It's a horrible waste of our good time.
"Drunk driving is 10,000 times more dangerous to you."
Wooldridge is not riding around the country to promote the use of marijuana. "Marijuana is a bad choice except for medicine," he said.
He opposes the criminalization of any drug, taking the point of view that adults and not government bureaucrats should decide what to put in their bodies. "Our grandparents were wise enough to end Prohibition," he said.
That said, he and Misty headed for the Mississippi River bridge to continue delivering the alarm.