Pubdate: Tue, 09 Feb 2010
Source: Collegiate Times (VA Tech,  Edu)
Copyright: 2010 Collegiate Times
Author: Mark Goldstein


The dictionary defines "education" as the "act or process of imparting
or acquiring general knowledge, developing the powers of reasoning and
judgment and generally of preparing oneself or others intellectually
for mature life." With that in mind, I am not sure how the Drug Abuse
Resistance Education program has been able to keep the "E" in its name.

The "general knowledge" the group imparts upon the public is based far
more on myths and scare tactics than on factual evidence. The
organization certainly does not encourage reasoning and judgment,
instead relying on the students of the program to take everything
presented to them at face value without even considering contrary
scientific evidence.

Nothing makes this farce clearer than DARE Chairman Skip Miller's Jan.
28 column in the Los Angeles times titled, "Don't Legalize Marijuana."
In the column, Mr. Miller makes several claims about the psychoactive
drug, which have been hotly contested by both scientific and legal
authorities, as if they were authoritative facts.

While it is important to educate children about the dangers of drug
use, the education should give an honest and balanced perspective as
opposed to a presentation of unverified claims. The first claim Mr.
Miller makes in the article is that legalization of marijuana in
California would "almost certainly would bring with it additional
substance abuse in the state." There is much evidence to the contrary
of that statement.

According to the former Surgeon General Joyce Elders, marijuana use
among teens actually dropped by more than 40 percent in the five years
following the legalization of medical marijuana in California in 1996.

Furthermore, when Portugal instituted a full-scale decriminalization
of all drugs in the early 2000s, not only did aggregate drug use not
increase, but there was an increase in people seeking treatment for
their drug problems. The majority of 12th graders surveyed by the
National Institute on Drug Abuse in Bethesda, Md., reported that
legalization of marijuana would have very little impact on their
personal habits regarding the drug.

With all of this evidence, I wonder how Mr. Miller can make the claim
that additional abuse would "almost certainly" happen. The chairman
goes on to claim that the amount of tetrahydrocannabinol (THC, the
primary substance in marijuana) has quadrupled since the 1970s, thus
making the drug more dangerous. It should be noted that the samples
taken by the Drug Enforcement Agency in 1977 to determine the THC
content of marijuana were very small in number and not representative
of the majority of the population.

More reliable data from the early 1980s and beyond shows that
marijuana potency has remained more or less constant for about thirty
years. The claim that increases in THC make the drug more dangerous
has never been scientifically substantiated. However, in 1994, Dr.
Jack Henningfield from the National Institute of Drug Abuse made a
chart that said THC as a whole is about as dangerous as caffeine and
is less dangerous than both alcohol and nicotine.

Other spurious claims made by the article include that marijuana is a
"habit-forming drug," and that the costs associated with legalizing
marijuana are greater than the costs currently spent on enforcement of
drug policy. I will let the readers research that information for
themselves, as evidence to the contrary is easily accessible. However,
my point is very clear. DARE often presents propaganda in order to
scare children.

There is a very dangerous consequence of doing this sort of thing,
because it has the potential to raise skepticism in children. Once
children realize their teachers are telling lies about marijuana, they
might also assume that they were being lied to about other more
dangerous drugs such as cocaine or heroin.

Dishonesty can only work until children are old enough to start
questioning authority. Another point should be raised: If DARE needs
to resort to falsities in order to attempt to prevent marijuana use,
why do they push said agenda in the first place?

DARE as a program has been largely proven to be ineffective. In 2001,
the Surgeon General reported that DARE "does not work." Moreover,
research by the Government Accountability Office determined that the
program is often counter-productive.

Nevertheless, the agenda of DARE is still pushed by schools and law
enforcement agencies all over the country. While education is an
imperative aspect of preventing drug and alcohol abuse, it is both
ineffective and immoral to lie to children in order to do so.

Mark Goldstein

president of Students for Sensible Drug Policy at Virginia Tech 
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