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.

Images courtesy of John Scully, Walden University, Ingrid Scully
True

Since March of 2020, over 29 million Americans have been diagnosed with COVID-19, according to the CDC. Over 540,000 have died in the United States as this unprecedented pandemic has swept the globe. And yet, by the end of 2020, it looked like science was winning: vaccines had been developed.

In celebration of the power of science we spoke to three people: an individual, a medical provider, and a vaccine scientist about how vaccines have impacted them throughout their lives. Here are their answers:

John Scully, 79, resident of Florida

Photo courtesy of John Scully

When John Scully was born, America was in the midst of an epidemic: tens of thousands of children in the United States were falling ill with paralytic poliomyelitis — otherwise known as polio, a disease that attacks the central nervous system and often leaves its victims partially or fully paralyzed.

"As kids, we were all afraid of getting polio," he says, "because if you got polio, you could end up in the dreaded iron lung and we were all terrified of those." Iron lungs were respirators that enclosed most of a person's body; people with severe cases often would end up in these respirators as they fought for their lives.

John remembers going to see matinee showings of cowboy movies on Saturdays and, before the movie, shorts would run. "Usually they showed the news," he says, "but I just remember seeing this one clip warning us about polio and it just showed all these kids in iron lungs." If kids survived the iron lung, they'd often come back to school on crutches, in leg braces, or in wheelchairs.

"We all tried to be really careful in the summer — or, as we called it back then, 'polio season,''" John says. This was because every year around Memorial Day, major outbreaks would begin to emerge and they'd spike sometime around August. People weren't really sure how the disease spread at the time, but many believed it traveled through the water. There was no cure — and every child was susceptible to getting sick with it.

"We couldn't swim in hot weather," he remembers, "and the municipal outdoor pool would close down in August."

Then, in 1954 clinical trials began for Dr. Jonas Salk's vaccine against polio and within a year, his vaccine was announced safe. "I got that vaccine at school," John says. Within two years, U.S. polio cases had dropped 85-95 percent — even before a second vaccine was developed by Dr. Albert Sabin in the 1960s. "I remember how much better things got after the vaccines came out. They changed everything," John says.

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Researchers at Harvard University have studied the connection between spanking and kids' brain development for the first time, and their findings echo what studies have indicated for years: Spanking isn't good for children.

Comments on this article will no doubt be filled with people who a) say they were spanked and "turned out fine" or b) say that the reason kids are [fill in the blank with some societal ill] these days are because they aren't spanked. However, a growing body of research points to spanking creating more problems than it solves.

"We know that children whose families use corporal punishment are more likely to develop anxiety, depression, behavior problems, and other mental health problems, but many people don't think about spanking as a form of violence," said Katie A. McLaughlin, director of the Stress & Development Lab in the Department of Psychology, and the senior researcher on the study which was published Friday in the journal Child Development. "In this study, we wanted to examine whether there was an impact of spanking at a neurobiological level, in terms of how the brain is developing."

You can read the entire study here, but the gist is that kids' brain activity was measured using an MRI machine as they reacted to photos of actors displaying "fearful" and "neutral" faces. What researchers found was that kids who had been spanked had similar brain neural responses to fearful faces as kids who had been abused.

"There were no regions of the brain where activation to fearful relative to neutral faces differed between children who were abused and children who were spanked," the authors wrote in a statement.

Keep Reading Show less
Images courtesy of John Scully, Walden University, Ingrid Scully
True

Since March of 2020, over 29 million Americans have been diagnosed with COVID-19, according to the CDC. Over 540,000 have died in the United States as this unprecedented pandemic has swept the globe. And yet, by the end of 2020, it looked like science was winning: vaccines had been developed.

In celebration of the power of science we spoke to three people: an individual, a medical provider, and a vaccine scientist about how vaccines have impacted them throughout their lives. Here are their answers:

John Scully, 79, resident of Florida

Photo courtesy of John Scully

When John Scully was born, America was in the midst of an epidemic: tens of thousands of children in the United States were falling ill with paralytic poliomyelitis — otherwise known as polio, a disease that attacks the central nervous system and often leaves its victims partially or fully paralyzed.

"As kids, we were all afraid of getting polio," he says, "because if you got polio, you could end up in the dreaded iron lung and we were all terrified of those." Iron lungs were respirators that enclosed most of a person's body; people with severe cases often would end up in these respirators as they fought for their lives.

John remembers going to see matinee showings of cowboy movies on Saturdays and, before the movie, shorts would run. "Usually they showed the news," he says, "but I just remember seeing this one clip warning us about polio and it just showed all these kids in iron lungs." If kids survived the iron lung, they'd often come back to school on crutches, in leg braces, or in wheelchairs.

"We all tried to be really careful in the summer — or, as we called it back then, 'polio season,''" John says. This was because every year around Memorial Day, major outbreaks would begin to emerge and they'd spike sometime around August. People weren't really sure how the disease spread at the time, but many believed it traveled through the water. There was no cure — and every child was susceptible to getting sick with it.

"We couldn't swim in hot weather," he remembers, "and the municipal outdoor pool would close down in August."

Then, in 1954 clinical trials began for Dr. Jonas Salk's vaccine against polio and within a year, his vaccine was announced safe. "I got that vaccine at school," John says. Within two years, U.S. polio cases had dropped 85-95 percent — even before a second vaccine was developed by Dr. Albert Sabin in the 1960s. "I remember how much better things got after the vaccines came out. They changed everything," John says.

Keep Reading Show less