Created by the Los Angeles Police Department in 1983 as a spin-off of Nancy Reagan’s tragically flawed “Just Say No” campaign, the D.A.R.E. (Drug Abuse Resistance Education) program’s intent was to send neighborhood police officers into local schools to teach kids about the dangers of drugs and the effects of peer pressure. Though it celebrates its 30th year in existence in 2013, the program has long been under scrutiny from a wide range of critics, none more vocal than the cannabis community.
For decades, friendly mustachioed police officers used the D.A.R.E. program to spook kids across America, and in over 40 countries worldwide, into believing that marijuana use leads to heroin use, or worse. Every half-baked and thoroughly debunked claim about the dangers of weed can be found in some form of D.A.R.E. propaganda from the past 30 years, yet in November of 2012, rumors began to swirl that the program might be looking to completely drop the topic of marijuana from their curriculum.
And sure enough, they did.
In Colorado, however, it seems that the seeds of change are taking a bit longer to form roots when it comes to D.A.R.E.’s stance on ever-changing marijuana laws. Despite the deluge of Colorado voters who hotboxed the polls in 2012 to pass Amendment 64, effectively legalizing recreational use of marijuana for adults in the state, and tone deaf to the latest memo and announcements coming straight from the U.S. Department of Justice regarding marijuana use, the Colorado faction of D.A.R.E. recently reiterated that their stance on marijuana remains the same.
“At this point, we are not looking to make any changes,” regurgitated Mike Lien (perhaps pronounced “lyin”?), the D.A.R.E. Regional Director in Colorado. “We feel our position has been a long-standing good one for kids.”
The U.S. Surgeon General, the U.S. General Accounting Office, the National Academy of Sciences, the U.S. Department of Education, and other prominent mainstream critics beg to differ, pointing to piles of studies showing that the D.A.R.E. program is not only “ineffective” in its mission, but in many cases can be counter-productive – literally worse than doing nothing.
Lien told the Summit Daily that he cannot predict the future, or where the discussion may eventually lead, stating in typical bureaucrat bullshittery, “No door is closed, but no door is immediately open.”
Whoa, that’s deep.
In the meantime, Colorado police officers operating in schools under the D.A.R.E. banner will continue to treat marijuana use as a sort of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy – apparently deploying a new tactic of ignoring an issue in hopes that it will just magically disappear.
Their current policy is to skip over the topic of pot, as instructed by the D.A.R.E. mothership, and allow each individual officer to decide how – or if – they want to answer any questions about weed that may be brought up by an inquisitive student.
Again, Lien chimes in, “What we’re always concerned about in D.A.R.E. is age appropriateness. Our studies show, for instance, talking about marijuana is not appropriate in elementary schools, but is OK in middle schools.”
Those studies Lien mentions?
A more accurate description of the scientific method that D.A.R.E. employs in such studies is summed up by Kathy Stewart, a high-ranking D.A.R.E. official in Utah, when she told The Salt Lake Tribune, “I don’t have any statistics for you. Our strongest numbers are the numbers that don’t show up.”
They point to surveys of soccer moms asked if they are “satisfied with D.A.R.E.”, then mistake those favorable results as proof of efficiency and effectiveness. In an era of ever-looming financial crises and budget slashing, a proven pit of inefficiency like D.A.R.E. should have been among the first programs on the chopping block, but fear is a good dollar and very few politicians want to appear to be “soft on drugs”.
“I think the program should be entirely scrapped and redeveloped anew,” says Dr. William Hansen, one of the creators of the original D.A.R.E. program.
Until his successors heed his advice, in nearly every school in the country, taxpayer-funded counter-productivity carries on.