If you were in an American school at any point during the last three decades or so, chances are you’re familiar with the anti-drug program Drug Abuse Resistance Education, or D.A.R.E. Aimed at preventing children and other youth from going down the path of addiction to various substances, it’s probably best known for its spectacular failure in that it may have actually increased drug use thanks primarily to its dependence on peer pressure which led youths to believe that everybody was doing drugs except them.
The good intentions behind the program were still present, however, despite the poor execution. From the early-1980s until today, the focus has been to keep kids off of drugs at any cost. Part of this strategy was to “Just Say No” to any and all drugs, including marijuana, which they had classified as a gateway drug to the hard stuff.
Now it seems they have, once again, learned from their past mistakes and are now moving away from villainizing marijuana to the extent that they had before. They have quietly removed it from their gateway drug classification and are instead focusing on harder drugs that can do much more harm.
The move comes during a time when the political climate and attitudes toward weed have softened considerably — with it being decriminalized in many areas around the country, and outright legalized in several states. To be sure, D.A.R.E. is not advocating the use of marijuana for youths, but they are instead focusing on things that can be much more harmful than smoking a fatty.
Leafly reached out to D.A.R.E. to ask why they had made the move, and Regional Director Ben Drogan told them it was part of their new ‘Keepin’ It Real’ initiative. Silly name and pandering aside, the new classification is almost certain to free up resources for fights that actually matter.
Marijuana has been shown to be an effective medicine, as well as a relatively safer alternative to other recreational drugs such as alcohol and nicotine. However, it can still be harmful to young people with minds that are still developing and can lead to long term cognitive issues which, while negative, are certainly less severe than those of drugs like heroin or cocaine.
Hopefully the new program will be more successful than D.A.R.E.’s past programs. But, if their track record is any indication, removing the focus on marijuana may actually decrease its use by young people.