With medical marijuana dispensaries in over 18 states, and both Colorado and Washington repealing their states’ prohibition laws on recreational use of the plant, it seems as though we’re slowly peeling away at the layers of progress in what has been nearly a century of fear and misinformation. Additionally, it’s been revealed that D.A.R.E., the international drug education group has modified its curriculum and will no longer discuss the topic of marijuana with fifth and sixth graders in the United States.
From D.A.R.E.’s one-pager about the changes:
“The D.A.R.E. kiR elementary curriculum provides information about drugs, focusing on alcohol and tobacco. Students learn to apply the information, within the constructs of a decision-making model, and to employ resistance skills in making safe and responsible decisions about drugs. While we do not focus individually on all possible drugs which can be abused, we believe the students can apply the learned decision-making model and developed resistance skills to other substances such as methamphetamine, prescriptions drugs, cocaine/crack, heroine, etc.
For the general population of 5th/6th grade students, the topic of marijuana is not age appropriate. Most students in this age group have no basis of reference to the substance. Research has found that teaching children about drugs with which they have never heard of or have no real life understanding may stimulate their interest or curiosity about the substance.”
Nice to see these guys have finally figured that one out. I have no doubt in my mind that D.A.R.E. is attempting to do some good, however, their program has been proven to be wholly ineffective. I first learned about drugs while in elementary school – D.A.R.E. taught me what marijuana, cocaine, and heroin were. Did I understand the substances or their effects on the human body? No. All I knew was that joints, pipes, razorblades, and needles were bad and that substance abusers were bad people. So I grew up with this warped idea of what drugs and drug culture was all about (note: I use the term “drug culture” to define the general collection of people who use drugs, not as some romanticized view of the scene). When I was finally old enough to comprehend what drugs were vaguely about (around middle school), I still didn’t fully understand the topics of addiction, or the perceived joys of recreational drug use. To me, drugs were a trap that inner-city children fell into and, for some reason, couldn’t escape. I knew about stimulants and depressants, but drugs were still a big mystery.
It was around this time (about the age of 13) that I first smoked pot. My cousin got some from his father’s stash and, in the woods across the street from my grandparents’ house, we each took turns out of a skillfully crafted pipe made out of aluminum foil. It’s not like I was really interested in smoking weed, but school was over and I was bored. The appeal was in the mystery – I knew my parents smoked, and I knew other people’s parents smoked, but I had all of these teachers and police officers telling me they were bad people. I suppose I wanted to find out how bad they were.
My conclusions that day were twofold:
One – I really, really liked frogs.
Two – marijuana was harmless.
I just didn’t see what the big deal was. I could have simply drawn the conclusion that all drugs were harmless and if I had been a less fortunate child, I suppose marijuana could have been a gateway drug. But I didn’t, and it wasn’t. It never even occurred to me to try anything else throughout the rest of middle and high school, and I didn’t have another experience with pot until I was perhaps 17. I still didn’t understand the feelings I had the first time I smoked, and there was no one to help me understand it. This lack of understanding would remain until my mid-twenties.
The problem with D.A.R.E. and the nation’s view on marijuana isn’t the idea that children shouldn’t do it. The problem arises when we feel we can’t have an adult conversation about drugs simply because the audience isn’t an adult. As usual with these sorts of things, it comes down to education.