The DARE (Drug Abuse Resistance Education) program, a national program that was initiated in 1983 by then Los Angeles Police Chief Daryl Gates, has become yet another tool disinforming the public on hemp.
Typically, a police department spokesperson will conduct a 17-week course at a local elementary school to promote personal responsible behavior by young persons while irresponsibly giving them distorted information and outright lies about cannabis.
Most of the course does not deal with drugs as such, but rather with making choices about how to act when there are opportunities or pressures to drink, smoke, steal, lie, break laws, etc. However, the programs truly useful support for good behavior is undermined by an undercurrent of lies and innuendo about marijuanas effects and users.*
* In an interview, L.A.s main DARE instructor, Sgt. Domagalski, gave information on the program and made such unsubstantiatedand untruestatements as marijuana leads to heroin, The guy across the street or next door has been smoking marijuana for years and there doesnt seem to be anything wrong with him. There is something wrong, but it may not be obvious. And, People in the Sixties smoked marijuana and thought there was nothing wrong with it. Now its watered and sprayed and pamperedand theyre not concerned what they spray it with, either. But parents dont know this. They got all their information in the Sixties, and theyre not interested in this new information. (Downtown News, July 10, 1989. Also see letters section, July 31, 1989 for BACHs reply.) See chapter 15, Debunking for the facts on his new information.
In 1999, DARE still consciously teaches these same lies to our children and threatens any community that dares to tell DARE to stop or cease in their school disrict. However, in 1997 the city of Oakland, California, withdrew from the DARE program and has so far suffered no consequences.
What makes the DARE program uniquely dangerous is that it provides some accurate information, but undermines itself and the public record by using lies and innuendo about marijuana.
For example, according to teachers who sit in on the sessions,* the police officer will remark, I cant tell you that smoking pot causes brain damage, because you all know people who smoke pot and they seem pretty normal. But thats what it does. You just cant tell yet.
* Some of the teachers we talked to find themselves in the uncomfortable position of knowing the real studies, or have used cannabis themselves and know its effects, but cannot openly present their case for fear of being urine tested or dismissed.
No supporting evidence is then offered, and the literature that goes home with the child (and is potentially seen by marijuana-savvy parents) tends to appear more balanced, although it refers to mysterious new studies showing the dangers of marijuana.
But throughout the entire course, the police officer refers to lung damage, brain damage, sterility, and other unfounded claims of health damage and death being caused by marijuana.
Or they report on studies detailing the cardio-pulmonary risks of using cocaine, then mention marijuana smokeunrelated except by context. Or the well-intentioned officer tells anecdotes about persons he claims to know who started with marijuana and ultimately destroyed their lives with hard drugs, crime, and depravity; then lumps marijuana in with genuinely dangerous drugs and describes how youngsters or fellow police officers were killed by these desperate, drug crazed criminals.
Then the officer encourages the students to help their drug-using friends and family by becoming a police informant. These kinds of indirect lies through innuendo and implication are given in an off-hand manner calculated to leave a strong, permanent impression on the sub-conscious mind, without basing it on any research or other sources that can be objectively studies or directly challengedjust a lasting, indistinct mental image.
What makes the DARE program uniquely dangerous is that it provides some accurate information and has genuine value for young people, but undermines itself and the public record by using these irresponsible, underhanded tactics.
If DARE officials want responsible behavior from students, they must also act responsibly. If they have information about marijuana that is hidden from the rest of us, lets see it. But, so far as we know, no DARE organization has yet dared to debate any marijuana legalization advocacy group* or include their literature in its program.
* Since 1989, Help Eliminate Marijuana Prohibition (HEMP) and the Business Alliance for Commerce in Hemp (BACH) have issued ongoing standing challenges to publicly debate any DARE representatives in the Los Angeles area, which has yet to be taken up. These groups have also offered to provide free and accurate literature on cannabis for DAREs use, but as of July 1998, have received no response.
illustration © Derrick Hare from Velocity; courtesy of 1-800-HEMPMAN
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