The movement pushing for the legalization of marijuana has been gaining traction for quite some time now. Four states have entirely legalized recreation marijuana use and another twelve states have legalized medical marijuana. Now, one of America’s most well-known anti-drug advocacy groups, D.A.R.E, has spoken out- in favor of legalization!
The Drug Abuse Resistance Education group, founded in 1983, is a “zero tolerance” anti-drug group aimed at steering (or scaring) children away from drug use. Famed for the questionably effective “Just Say No” campaign, it’s a welcome surprise to see this recognition of reality and show of support from the group.
Former deputy sheriff Carlis McDerment wrote an op-ed that called for the legalization of marijuana and a recognition that Ronald Reagan’s harsh anti-drug policies of the 1980s have failed, admitting that “in reality, the drug has become infinitely harder for law enforcement to control.”
With that in mind, he acknowledges the impossible task that parents face in trying to protect their kids from all the dangers that modern society presents to them:
Anyone who suggests we outlaw everything dangerous to children would also have to ban stairs, Tylenol, bleach, forks and outlet sockets and definitely alcohol. Those things harm children every day, but anyone championing that we ban them would be laughed at… I support legalization precisely because I want to reduce youths’ drug use. Drug dealers don’t care about a customer’s age. The answer isn’t prohibition and incarceration; the answer is regulation and education.
It’s a very welcome move from an organization whose California coordinator once reacted to end of zero tolerance in Los Angeles schools by saying “I’m surprised they don’t hand [cannabis] out when they hand out their workbooks.”
It’s refreshing to see America take a new approach to dealing with the issue of marijuana legalization. Scare-them-straight and zero-tolerance policies- like abstinence only sex ed- don’t work. Scientific American reported that “a meta-analysis (mathematical review) in 2009 of 20 controlled studies by statisticians Wei Pan, then at the University of Cincinnati, and Haiyan Bai of the University of Central Florida revealed that teens enrolled in the program were just as likely to use drugs as were those who received no intervention.”
The War on Drugs and its accompanying harsh penalties for minor drug offenders have taken a terrible toll on our nation. Billions of dollars wasted, millions of lives ruined by throwing them into the repetitive cycle of mass incarceration that leaves them with no chance at redemption. It is far beyond time that America began treating marijuana as it does alcohol and tobacco.
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Opinion columnist and former editor-in-chief of Occupy Democrats. He graduated from Bennington College with a Bachelor's degree in history and political science. He now focuses on advancing the cause of social justice and equality in America.