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 for disinforming the public on hemp.
Typically, a police department spokesperson will conduct a 17-week course at a local elementary school to promote personally responsible behavior by young people 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 program’s truly useful support for good behavior is undermined by an undercurrent of lies and innuendo about marijuana’s effects and users.*
*In an interview, L.A.’s main DARE instructor, Sgt. Domagalski, gave information on the program and made such unsubstantiated – and untrue – statements as marijuana leads to heroin, “The guy across the street or next door has been smoking marijuana for years and there doesn’t 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 it’s watered and sprayed and tampered with – and they’re not concerned what they spray it with, either. But parents don’t know this. They got all their information in the Sixties, and they’re not interested in this new information.”
(Downtown News, July 10, 1989. See Chapter 15, “Debunking” for the facts on his “new information.”
In 2007, 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 district. However, in 1997 the city of Oakland, California withdrew from the DARE program and has so far suffered no consequences.
For example, according to teachers who sit in on the sessions,* the police officer will remark, “I can’t tell you that smoking pot causes brain damage, because you all know people who smoke pot and they seem pretty normal. But that’s what it does. You just can’t 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 smoke – unrelated except by context. Or the “well-intentioned” officer tells anecdotes about people 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 subconscious mind, without basing it on any research or other sources that can be objectively studied or directly challenged – just 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, let’s 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 End Marijuana Prohibition (HEMP) and The Business Alliance for Commerce in Hemp (BACH) have issued ongoing standing challenges to publicly debate any DARE representative in the Los Angeles area, which have yet to be taken up. These groups have also offered to provide free and accurate literature on cannabis for DARE’s use, but as of July 1998, have received no response.