With tongue firmly planted in her cheek, leading scholar, author and activist for youth drug education, Marsha Rosenbaum, Ph.D, from the Drug Policy Alliance, criticizes DARE’s ineffectiveness and expense for the last thirty years.
‘Just Say No’ Turns 30
Marsha Rosenbaum, Ph.D
If you are under 40, it is very likely that you, like 80 percent of schoolchildren in the U.S., were exposed to Drug Abuse Resistance Education, which celebrates its 30th birthday this month.
D.A.R.E. was created by the Los Angeles Police Department in 1983, following the rise of a conservative parents movement and First Lady Nancy Reagan in need of a cause. The purpose of D.A.R.E. was to teach students about the extreme dangers of drugs by sending friendly police officers into classrooms to help kids resist the temptation to experiment; to stand up in the face of peer pressure; and to “just say no.”
Because of its widespread use in elementary schools all across America (and in over 40 countries around the world), D.A.R.E .was evaluated extensively. The reviews consistently showed that while students enjoyed interacting with police (especially examining the sample cases of drugs used for show and tell), and may have been initially deterred, effects were short lived. In fact, by the time D.A.R.E. graduates reached their late teens and early 20s, many had forgotten what they had learned or rejected the exaggerated messages they’d heard. And by 2001, D.A.R.E. was deemed by none other than the United States Surgeon General, “an ineffective primary prevention program,” and lost 80 percent of its federal funding shortly thereafter.
Yet D.A.R.E .has kept going — trying to keep up with the times, at least rhetorically, with its new “Keepin’ it Real” curriculum. Last fall, I read with keen interest that the program in Washington State had been notified by national D.A.R.E., its oversight agency, that the subject of marijuana would be dropped from the curriculum.
What???? The very same D.A.R.E. program that taught my daughter that marijuana would lead to heroin addiction isn’t even mentioning pot? Had it given up its “reefer madness” campaign, perhaps in light of Washington’s Initiative 502 that legalized marijuana last November?
I had to call and hear for myself about these big changes.
President and CEO Frank Pegueros told me that, in fact, D.A.R.E. had changed. The didactic approach is gone, replaced by dialogue and discussion. “Just say no,” he said, “has gone by the wayside.” It sounded almost touchy feely to me.
I was encouraged, thinking for a brief moment that the chorus of anti-D.A.R.E. critics, like me, who emphasized the importance of honest, science-based drug education, had actually been heard.
But then I asked Mr. Pegueros about marijuana, and why it was dropped from the curriculum, and that’s when I got the real scoop.
Actually, it was not officially dropped. Instead, not wanting to pique students’ interest, the subject of marijuana will be discussed by D.A.R.E. officers only if it is brought up by students themselves. And what will they be told? As for content, one needs only to peruse www.dare.com to see that although the packaging may have evolved, the content has remained the same: marijuana is a very dangerous drug; medical marijuana is a hoax; and big money, rather than compassion and pragmatism, is behind legalization initiatives.
By now it is commonly known that the extreme dangers of marijuana have been exaggerated, and few users become addicted or graduate to hard drug use; roughly 70 percent of the American population supports medical marijuana; and it is public opinion that is driving initiatives and legislation to make medical marijuana available to people who need it.
If D.A.R.E. failed to convince youth a generation ago to “just say no” because its content was unbelievable, no amount of new anti-drug rhetoric will help. Students didn’t believe what they were told 30 years ago, and they’re too smart to believe it now.
And worse, D.A.R.E.’s recycled rhetoric will certainly fail to provide young people with useful information to help them make wise, health-driven decisions about dealing with the myriad of substances available to them today.
So Happy 30th D.A.R.E. Now that you’re approaching middle age, how about trying “just say know” this time around?
Marsha Rosenbaum is the founder of the Safety First drug education project at the Drug Policy Alliance and author of “Safety First: A Reality-Based Approach to Teens and Drugs.”
One of the most important Washington DC think tanks, the Brookings Institute, is hosting a panel discussion on states’ efforts to legalize marijuana on April 15.
Event: Marijuana Legalization: Are There Alternatives to State-Federal Conflict?
Time: 2:00 PM
Date: Monday, April 15, 2013
Location: Brookings Institution, Saul/Zilkha Rooms, 1775 Massachusetts Avenue, NW, Washington, District of Columbia 20036
To register to watch this event online, go here.
Panelist include Congressman Earl Blumenauer (D-OR), sponsor of legalization legislation in Congress; Washington state Attorney General Bob Ferguson; UCLA professor (and Washington state’s new ‘cannabis consultant‘) Mark Kleiman, Ph.D and legal author/essayist and Brookings Institute scholar Stuart Taylor, Jr.
Moderator: Jonathan Rauch, Brookings Institute
Leaders from numerous NORML chapters were present and addressed the crowd including Patrick Nightingale from Pittsburgh NORML, Evan Nison from NJ NORML, Kevin Clough and Joe Forte of Philly NORML, and Erik Williams of Connecticut NORML. They were joined by notable speakers including Gabriel Sayegh (DPA), Ken Wolski (CMMNJ), Rob Cantrell (Stand-up Comedian), Stacia Cosner (SSDP), Mike Liszewski (ASA), Marc Connuck (PA Farmers for Hemp), Jahan Marcu (PhD Candidate, Temple Medical School), Mallory Loflin (SUNY Albany), as well as Erik Altieri and Allen St. Pierre (National NORML). NORML Board of Directors members Rick Cusick and Diane Fornbacher also were on panels.
Attendees were treated to an engaging keynote address from State Senator Daylin Leach, the primary sponsor of Pennsylvania’s legalization bill. You can view highlights of the speech here and the full video here.
Also featured was Pennsylvania State Representative Mark Cohen, a long time supporter of marijuana law reform in the state, who gave those present advice on how they could best aid their lawmakers in their efforts.
The evening ended with a Private Fundraiser featuring entertainment from the likes of comedian Rob Cantrell and local Philadelphia reggae act, Cultureal.
You can read some coverage of the event below:
Philly.com – Philly420: Cannabis for St. Patrick’s in Philly
PhillyRecord – Leach: Pa. GOP Senators Support Legal Pot – On The QT
CannaCentral – NORML Mid-Atlantic Regional Conference
Live Illustrations of Panel Content by Jonny Goldstein
A Message from the Chair of NORML’s Board of Directors, Norm Kent:
NORML is the pioneer, the grand patron and founder of the marijuana policy reform movement in America. We are still here and by your side, and we are needed now, more than ever.
Some have said that as our nation moves towards medicalization, decriminalization, or legalization, our tasks will be diminished, our duties lessened, our essence threatened.
The truth is that it is just the opposite.
Now, with cannabis reforms about to blossom in city after city, from small communities to large counties, our nation needs a respected consumer advocacy group more than ever.
Our nation needs a lobby such as the new NORML, firmly planted, and nationally respected, which will protect the rights of cannabis consumers, as no one else has in the past or can in the future.
Our nation needs a new NORML, which ensures that the distribution of cannabis to anyone is universally safe, readily accessible and fairly affordable to everyone.
Our nation needs a new NORML that ensures that the laws which legislatures pass favor freedom and fairness, not moneymakers or mercenaries.
Our nation needs a new NORML that ensures patients have access to safe medicine, consumers acquire healthy products, and distribution mechanisms protect gender, age, and race, available not just to corporate conglomerates but individual entrepreneurs.
The new NORML today contains a NORML Women’s Alliance representing the power of feminism and professionalism, bringing passion and gender diversity to the cause of personal freedom and individual choice.
The new NORML brings vast youth advocacy to the table, with hundreds of chapters in 50 states, young men and women fighting with their heart and soul to ensure scholarships are not revoked, driving privileges are not taken away, and jobs are not lost because they make legal decisions to use cannabis responsibly.
The new NORML will bring activists and academicians, economists and entrepreneurs, to political forums, explaining how justly taxing cannabis legally today can stop the bleeding of state, city and village budgets tomorrow.
The new NORML will still need and provide the national canvas with a network of criminal defense attorneys to represent clients who are wrongly arrested and unjustly prosecuted, from patients with medical conditions to adult drivers illegally stopped.
The new NORML needs to remind Americans that decriminalization in 18 states means we still have a ways to go in 32 others, where nearly a million Americans a year still go to jail for consuming cannabis.
Thus, the new NORML needs to remind everyone that apathy and inertia has no room for intrusion; that our advocacy must still be engaged, that our voices still be heard.
The new NORML thus needs to blend innovative social media tools to drive activists with initiatives from coast to coast and in community after community. With hundreds of thousands of followers on Facebook, and millions of cannabis consumers living and supporting our cause all across America, our word must be spread on the web and throughout the country. We must remind Americans everywhere that it is unjust and unfair for adults consuming cannabis privately and personally to get arrested anywhere, anytime, or in any place.
The new NORML needs to be advocates not just for patients who want access to safe medicine and fair distribution systems, but adults who demand the right to responsible use along with just access for righteous, recreational use, needing no apologies for exercising their individual sovereignty openly and freely.
The new NORML also needs to be advocates who rectify the injustices of past decades, for individuals whose futures were destroyed by a drug war that failed to do anything but ruin good lives with bad laws.
The new NORML needs to marshal public policy so that the laws are changed everywhere not in the next few decades, but in the next few years. To achieve national reform, we need to harness the energy and network of drug policy reform organizations throughout this country. We need to speak with a common voice and universal message.
The message to be shared and the story to be told is not just that prohibition was wrong all along, or that the drug war has been a financial and moral failure. That is a past we have learned all too well.
The message for the new NORML is to state that Americans citizens have always come to support equal civil liberties for all, from women to African Americans, to our friends in the gay and lesbian community. After decades of pain, that morning has come for cannabis consumers. The new NORML will celebrate the future, not condemn the past.
For 40 years, NORML has been on the side of those who embraced individual choice and the responsible use of cannabis, as an extension of personal freedom.
Now, more than ever, the new NORML will remain by your side in order to ensure that as cannabis is distributed and disseminated to consumers from state to state, or coast to coast, it becomes readily accessible, equitably affordable and universally safe.
Chair, NORML Board of Directors
Please consider making a donation to NORML today to help support our ongoing efforts to legalize the responsible adult use of marijuana by clicking here.
The National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws is pleased to announce that it is now providing educational content to the editors of The Answer Page, Inc. The Answer Page, Inc. is an online medical educational resource founded in 1998 that provides daily education to healthcare professionals in 120 countries. TheAnswerPage (online at TheAnswerPage.com) uses the Socratic question-and-answer teaching method. The content for the website is primarily written by academic clinicians respected in their fields. All content is peer-reviewed and referenced from current texts and recent literature.
TheAnswerPage now features educational content in the area of medical marijuana. The editorial team of TheAnswerPage states: “Medical marijuana may be controversial, but it is now an important area of study in healthcare. Doctors and healthcare professionals must understand the medical, legal, social and political issues to best respond to their patients’ questions and attend to their needs.”
The medical marijuana ‘lecture series’ begins with an introductory primer to the cannabis plant. The following week focuses on five distinct cannabinoids and their therapeutic potential.
“NORML recognizes that physicians and health care professionals desire balanced information regarding the safety and efficacy of cannabis as a potential therapy,” NORML’s Deputy Director Paul Armentano said. “NORML is pleased to provide its expertise to TheAnswerPage to assist health care professionals better understand and navigate this important public health issue.”
Subscribers to TheAnswerPage receive continuing medical education (CME) credit by reading the content and completing an industry-unique Interactive Crossword Puzzle. The clues are structured to reinforce the educational material, and links are provided to the related content. Subscribers have personal educational accounts that organize their earned CME credit and allow clinicians to download, email or print CME certificates for credentialing and licensing.
TheAnswerPage.com has over 50 interactive crossword puzzles posted, for earning CME credit. New content and crosswords are posted daily.
TheAnswerPage‘s medical cannabis content is available at the ‘syllabus;’ select the pull down menu option: “Medical Marijuana — Medical, Legal, Social, and political Issues.” Free registration to the site is required.