You couldn’t make it through the American school system without logging some time in D.A.R.E. assemblies. Sure, listening to melodramatic tales describing the horrors of drug use delivered by emphatic life coaches beat the classroom doldrums. But the ham-handed preachiness of the delivery prompted more than a few pre-adolescent snickers. By the time you hit teenage years, D.A.R.E. t-shirts were only worn by sarcastic users or the painfully out-of-touch. Who would have guessed that we’d live to see the day when D.A.R.E. was all for legalizing weed? Yet for a few brief moments it seemed that we had.
Legalizing Weed Discourages Drug Use in Minors
The unofficial announcement came in the form of an op-ed piece penned by former deputy sheriff Carlis McDerment and published on D.A.R.E.’s website. The piece admitted that legalizing weed was more helpful in deterring youth from drug use than prohibiting it. Of course, this wasn’t an out-and-out celebration of marijuana. Rather McDerment was acknowledging how legalizing weed in Colorado and Washington seemed to have resulted in reduced marijuana use in minors.
“People like me, and other advocates of marijuana legalization, are not totally blind to the harms that drugs pose to children,” McDerment wrote as a buffer to his explanation for his support of legalizing weed. “We just happen to know that legalizing and regulating marijuana will actually make everyone safer.” It’s unclear as to who McDerment meant by “we” since D.A.R.E. has since removed the op-ed from its site in a motion to demonstrate that they don’t share McDerment’s views on legalizing weed. D.A.R.E. also confirmed to Christopher Ingraham of the Washington Post that the organization does not support or condone marijuana legalization.
"Just Say No" May Prompt Rebellion
The organization’s backpedaling comes in the wake of New York
magazine’s praise of McDerment’s assumedly representative op-ed piece, claiming the unexpected stance on legalizing weed was a “breakthrough” for D.A.R.E. The drug-prevention organization’s philosophy has been called into question after statistics indicated that its zero tolerance stance and “just say no” motto were not only ineffective in deterring drug use in minors but may have even instigated it in some cases. The popularity of D.A.R.E. t-shirts worn in sarcasm supports the idea that, more than anything, D.A.R.E. served as yet another establishment against which to rebel. Created by the Los Angeles Police Department with a motto coined by Nancy Reagan, it actually begged for rebellion.
The War on Drugs Mirrors Alcohol Prohibition
When McDerment responded to a letter in the Columbus Dispatch with a supportive stance on legalizing weed it was as if a breath of fresh air had blown through D.A.R.E.’s rigid, stodgy ideology. “I support legalization precisely because I want to reduce youths’ drug use,” McDerment clarified in his response. “Drug dealers don’t care about a customer’s age. The answer isn’t prohibition and incarceration; the answer is regulation and education.”
Comparing bans on legalizing marijuana to the brutal years of alcohol prohibition, McDerment continued to hammer home his points. He even paralleled outlawing marijuana to banning bleach, stairs, electrical sockets, and other daily hazards a child may face. “Those things harm children every day, but anyone championing that we ban them would be laughed at,” added McDerment.
However, D.A.R.E.’s official site
is back to business as usual today, replacing McDerment’s response on legalizing weed with less progressive content. While it may seem the war on drugs, and its war on statistics by proxy, forges onward, for the briefest of moments we lived in a world where D.A.R.E. recognized “just say no” often led to “yes.”