Here's why pot advocates are loving D.A.R.E.'s recent Internet flub.

You remember D.A.R.E., right?

If you're anything like me, this throwback serves as a haunting reminder that, no, middle school was not a nightmare, and yes, it did in fact happen in real life. Photo by Robert Mora/Getty Images.


D.A.R.E. stands for Drug Abuse Resistance Education. I'm guessing this rings a bell.

D.A.R.E. is a program run by police departments and it aims to keep kids away from harmful drugs, gangs, and violence. It launched in Los Angeles in 1983 in the throes of the "War on Drugs" and still operates in schools across the U.S. today, meaning millions of Americans have had the D.A.R.E. experience over the past few decades.

(D.A.R.E.'s effectiveness has been questioned, but that's a topic for another time.)


Do you remember D.A.R.E.'s mascot, "Daren the Lion"?! Here he is shaking hands with actor Erik Estrada in 2002, because, why not? Photo by Robert Mora/Getty Images.

D.A.R.E., unsurprisingly, has never been a fan of marijuana — that is, until this week, apparently.

With its strong anti-drug mission, it makes sense D.A.R.E. has always been against legalizing marijuana. But on July 27, 2015, D.A.R.E. posted an op-ed from The Columbus Dispatch to its website that implied otherwise.

The article, which was written by former deputy sheriff Carlis McDerment, was titled, "Purchasing marijuana puts kids at risk." And while it may sound like it's an anti-pot essay ... it's not.

Photo by Robyn Beck/AFP/Getty Images.

"People like me, and other advocates of marijuana legalization, are not totally blind to the harms that drugs pose to children," McDerment wrote in the op-ed. "We just happen to know that legalizing and regulating marijuana will actually make everyone safer."

In the article, McDerment argues that legalizing and regulating weed would actually help in keeping kids away from marijuana, as dealers in the illicit market (which would cease to exist should pot become legal) don't care if a customer is under 18 years old. Legalizing marijuana would mean creating an industry that could be regulated to enforce age limit laws similar to the ones we have for alcohol.

The apparent endorsement of legal weed was a complete 180° flip for D.A.R.E. But, alas, it was also a complete accident.

After outlets like New York Magazine reported on the organization's change of heart, D.A.R.E. removed the article from its website.

When The Washington Post's Christopher Ingraham reached out to the group to learn more about its stance, D.A.R.E. clarified the article's publishing was, in fact, a "mistake."


It's a bummer to hear that D.A.R.E.'s not on the legal weed bandwagon, though, because the op-ed they shared is onto something.

In the past, conventional wisdom led some to believe that loosening marijuana laws would send the wrong message to children, but lots of research tells us that's not the case.

A June 2015 study, for example, found that in states that have passed medical marijuana laws, the legalization didn't increase teenage use of the drug. In fact, the study spotted a decrease in use among eighth-graders after the laws went into effect.

Frederic J. Brown/AFP/Getty Images.

There's also plenty of evidence telling us legalizing weed would do society good...

...like providing funds for important things.

If weed is made legal and the industry regulated, taxes generated from sales could go toward things like public education.

Legal weed could also lower the incarceration rate. Some believe that decriminalizing "victimless" crimes — like the ones often related to minor marijuana offenses — would decrease the prison population without sacrificing safety.

And legal weed might even save lives. As I wrote about in July, it looks like people who seek out painkillers to ease chronic pain are turning toward legal weed instead, thereby reducing the number of deaths from overdosing on prescription painkillers.

For an organization that claims to have everyone's best interests at heart, D.A.R.E. might want to consider actually reading that op-ed they posted.

It might just change their program for the better.

Photo courtesy of Kenneth and Jill Gonsalves
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It can be expensive to have a pet. It's possible to spend between $250 to $700 a year on food for a dog and around $120-$500 on food for a cat. But of course, most of us don't think twice about the expense: having a pet is worth it because of the company animals provide.

But for some, this expense is hard to keep up, no matter how much you adore your fur baby. And that's why Kenneth and Jill Gonsalves decided to help.

Kenneth had seen a man scraping together change in a store to buy pet food, so he offered to buy the man some extra pet food. Still, later that night he couldn't stop thinking about the experience — he worried the man wasn't just struggling to pay for pet food, but food for himself, too.

So he went home and told his wife — and immediately, they both knew they needed to do something. So, in December 2020, they converted a farm stand into a take-what-you-need, leave-what-you-can Pet Food pantry.

"A lot of people would have watched that man count out change to buy pet food. Some may have helped him out like my husband did," Jill says. "A few may have thought about it afterward. But, only someone like Kenny would turn that experience into what we have today."

"If it weren't for his generous spirit and his penchant for a plan, the pantry would never have been born," she adds.

A man with sunglasses hands a box of cat food to a woman smiling Photo courtesy of Kenneth and Jill Gonsalves

At first, the couple started the pet food pantry with a couple hundred dollars of pet food they bought themselves. And to make sure people knew about the pantry, they set up a Facebook page for the pantry, then went to other Facebook groups, such as a "Buy Nothing group," and shared what they were doing.

"When we started, we weren't even sure people would use us," Jill says. "At best, we were hoping to be able to provide enough to help people get through the holidays."

But, thanks to their page and word of mouth, news spread about what they were doing, and the donations of more pet food started flooding in, too. Before long, they were coming home to stacks of food — and within a couple of months, the pantry was full.

Yellow post-it note with handwritten note that reads: "Hi, I read your story on Facebook. Here is a small donation to help. I have a 3-year-old yellow lab who I adore. I hope this helps someone in need. Merry Christmas. Meredith" Photo courtesy of Kenneth and Jill Gonsalves

"The pounds of food we have gone through is well, well, well into the thousands," Jill says. "The orders from our Amazon Wish List alone include several hundred pounds of dry food, a couple of hundred cases of canned food, and thousands of treats and toys. But, that does not even take into account the hundreds of drop-offs, online orders, and monetary donations we have received."

They also got many 'Thank you notes' from the people they helped.

"I would like to thank you for helping us feed our fur babies," one note read. "My husband and I recently lost our jobs, and my husband [will] hopefully [find] a new one. We are just waiting for a call."

Another read: "I just need to say thank you from the bottom of my heart. I haven't worked in over a month with a two-year-old at home. Dad brings in about $300/week. From the pandemic to Christmas, it has been tough. But with the help of beautiful people like you, my fur baby can now eat a little bit longer, and my heart is happy."

Jill says that she thinks the fact that the pet pantry is a farm stand helps people feel better.

A woman holding a small black dog and looking at the camera is greeted by Jill Gonsalves Photo courtesy of Kenneth and Jill Gonsalves

"When we first started this, someone who visited us mentioned how it made them feel good to be able to browse without feeling like they were being watched," she says. "So, it's been important to us to maintain that integrity."

Jill and Kenneth aren't sure how many people they've helped so far, but they know that their pet food pantry is doing what they hoped it would. "The pet owners who visit us, much like donations, come in ebbs and flows," Jill says. "We have some regulars who have been with us since the beginning. We also have some people that come a few times, and we never see again."

"Our hope is that they used us while they were in a tough spot, but they don't need us anymore. In a funny way, the greatest thing would be if no one needed us anymore."


Today, the Acushnet Pet Pantry is still going strong, but its stock is running low. If you want to help out, visit their Facebook page for updates and to find ways to donate.

Demonstrators hold up signs at the Rally for Abortion Justice in Columbus, Ohio

The U.S. Supreme Court's swing to the right under the Trump presidency puts abortion rights in peril throughout the United States. The Court's decision not to act on a Texas law that bans abortions after about six weeks has opened the floodgates for other states to restrict freedoms.

The Texas law deputizes its citizens to report those who've had an abortion after the fetus has a heartbeat or anyone who assisted in the process. Reporters whose information leads to a successful conviction can be awarded up to $10,000 by the state.

The law is astonishing in a state that claims to value freedom. What's more authoritarian than paying your citizens to snitch on each other for their personal health decisions?

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