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Is D.A.R.E. Finally Ready To Quit Lying About Marijuana?

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dare to keep cops off donutsby Brendan Ferreri-Hanberry,

The infamous school drug-education program known as D.A.R.E. (Drug Abuse Resistance Education) may be removing marijuana from its curriculum. D.A.R.E. officer Mike Meyer of Kennewick, Washington explains that program’s materials for December make no mention of the substance, though he says he does not know why.

If true, this is a welcome step, although eliminating D.A.R.E. altogether would be preferable. All credible studies of the program, including a report from the Government Accountability Office, have failed to find any decrease in drug use connected with participation in D.A.R.E. Officials with the organization have apparently been slow in admitting this, however. In a libel suit brought by D.A.R.E. against Rolling Stone magazine, Federal Judge Virginia Phillips ruled that allegations printed in the magazine, including that D.A.R.E. had actually tried to suppress scientific research critical of the program, were “substantially true.” D.A.R.E. appealed the decision, but the Ninth Circuit Court upheld the ruling.

Although D.A.R.E. officials admitted their failure in 2001 and proposed a new, less hysterical curriculum, research since then has still failed to demonstrate any success. The “new” curriculum, as it is described on the website, does not seem to involve any increased commitment to facts, but rather now involves “role-playing sessions” and “discussion groups.” The summary of the new program, revealingly, makes insinuations that drug use is connected to terrorism, and in place of facts, explains that officers will be using “stunning brain imagery” as “tangible proof of how substances diminish mental activity, emotions, coordination and movement.”

Although they have possibly abandoned the anti-marijuana crusade in their school curriculum, D.A.R.E. still disseminates dishonest information on their website. An ironically named “fact sheet” repeats claims that marijuana “has a high potential for abuse,” and although it is short on the details or prevalence of this abuse, it does claim that marijuana can weaken the immune system and cause insanity and lung disease. The “fact sheet” categorically denies the medical benefits of marijuana, suggesting that it causes only “inebriation.” At the same time, it admits that THC, which the page describes as “the psychoactive [in other words mind-altering or “inebriating”]ingredient in marijuana,” has medical benefits. It implicitly denies the countless cases of experiences of medical marijuana patients who tried conventional treatments without success, claiming simply that “existing legal drugs provide superior treatment for serious medical conditions,” and “the FDA has approved safe and effective medication for the treatment of glaucoma, nausea, wasting syndrome, cancer, and multiple sclerosis.” The page even quotes the Institute of Medicine study, “Marijuana and Medicine: Assessing the Science Base,” the very same study which confirms the medical usefulness of marijuana and refutes claims that it poses a major proven risk of addiction or lung cancer, or that it causes brain damage, amotivational syndrome, suppression of the immune system, use of other illicit drugs, or premature death from any cause. The study further points out the shortcomings of existing legal medications for the relevant medical conditions, including the slow and unreliable action of synthetic THC pills.

According to Mike Riggs at Reason, D.A.R.E. headquarters has neither confirmed nor denied any shift in policy.

This post originally appeared on The Marijuana Policy Project Blog and was republished with special permission.

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  • D.A.R.E. is a chagrin of the drug policy reform movement. It has been proven to be as big a disappointment for youth as the perpetual humiliating dis-information our government’s have been offering adults for decades. Prohibition’s messengers have harmed rather than helped the advance of quality drug education in our public schools. Students have come to understand that lies create mistrust. Drug education must be about ideas over ideology, compassion over coercion and rehabilitation over punishment. Drug education must be a health issue not a criminal issue. Drug education must be delivered by health and wellness experts and qualified education professionals. Law enforcement officers sadly and inevitably are the messengers of unjust and failed drug policies and drug laws. Presently, far too little funding has been devoted to putting quality scientific and evidenced based drug education to work in our school districts. It is time for parents to question the validity of their drug education programs and support young people and help them navigate through a world where drugs are readily available.

  • Rob

    what does cannabis legalization in Washington and Colorado mean for people in the state jailed for possession?

    • ElectronicDesign

      I’m sure they will continue to serve their sentances, because at the time they were convicted, it was still against the law, meaning that they still broke the law and must attone for it.

  • DavidTheExpert

    Um, I’m 99% sure that this is incorrect. Marijuana is in fact still in the D.A.R.E. curriculum. This all stems from one guy’s comment that was taken way out of context. Marijuana is very much still in the curriculum. TheWeedBlog, you should really do more research before posting something like this which is not accurate.