The Drug Abuse Resistance Education program was briefly relevant to the actual concerns of 21st century life Saturday afternoon when it mistakenly posted an op-ed by former Ohio Deputy Sheriff Carlis McDerment to its homepage urging the widespread legalization of marijuana.
The D.A.R.E. program, established in Los Angeles in 1983, claims to be committed to creating “A world in which students everywhere are empowered to respect others and choose to lead lives free from violence, substance abuse, and other dangerous behaviors,” through partnerships with school districts, interactive in-school programs, and it’s controversial “Just Say No” philosophy.
In McDerment’s letter, he explains, “The goal of prohibiting marijuana was to eradicate its use, but in reality, the drug has become infinitely harder for law enforcement to control. People like me, and other advocates of marijuana legalization, are not totally blind to the harms that drugs pose to children. We just happen to know that legalizing and regulating marijuana will actually make everyone safer. Merely decriminalizing it will do nothing to undercut the dangerous illicit market that is currently selling to kids everywhere…of course, children shouldn’t ingest marijuana unless a physician has legal recommended it. But anyone who suggests we outlaw everything dangerous to children would also have to ban stairs, Tylenol, bleach, forks, and outlet sockets and definitely alcohol. Those things harm children every day, but anyone championing that we ban them would be laughed at.”
For the brief time McDermott’s letter was live on the D.A.R.E. homepage before being removed, it seemed as though the program was actually addressing the numerous problems with its strict, scared-straight abstinence philosophy, which has been criticized by researchers and former students alike.
Alas, the letter—which ends, “I support legalization precisely because I want to reduce youths’ drug use…the answer isn’t prohibition and incarceration; the answer is regulation and education”—has been removed, and explained away by D.A.R.E Director Donald J. Brogan as “mistakenly posted on our website by a service we use. We have not changed our stance of being opposed to the legalization of marijuana.”