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.

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