Schools in the US are getting real about drug education by focusing on harm reduction while abandoning prohibitionist approaches that fail to work, such as the D.A.R.E. America (Drug Abuse Resistance Education) program created in Los Angeles in 1983 by the infamous LAPD chief Daryl Gates. Gates is better remembered for proclaiming before a US Senate Subcommittee that infrequent or casual drug users “ought to be taken out and shot” because “we’re in a war” and even casual drug use is “treason.”
In its application, D.A.R.E.â€™s ridiculously inaccurate anti-drug hype served to make many students more curious (and thereby allegedly â€œtreasonousâ€) when they experimented with drugs they might never have heard of before D.A.R.E. visited their classrooms. Harm reduction education can avoid these problems:
Instead of â€œjust say noâ€ propaganda, harm reduction reduces risks by helping people make the healthiest choices based on evidence-based research, without judgement. [â€¦]
â€¦scare tactics have been replaced with useful facts about how drugs work and why the government made some of them illegal (hint: the history of drug prohibition is steeped in racism and classism) [â€¦]
With Safety First, students learn about different marijuana products, from raw buds to concentrates and edibles, along with their effects on the mind and bodyâ€¦in the harm reduction section of the unit, students learn that the best way to avoid these potential harms is abstinence â€” choosing not to use marijuana. However, Safety First recognizes some teenagers will make a different choice. So, students learn the difference between smoking marijuana and consuming edibles. [â€¦]
Drug-use safety tips have typically been available from a personâ€™s drug-consuming peersâ€”not organizations like D.A.R.E. Drug war critics have endorsed policies like those of Safety First for decades, only to be rebuffed by politicians and prohibitionists who apparently want the use of illicit drugs to remain potentially harmful. Drugs made less harmful, or those already benign, do little to support the existence or need of specialized drug enforcement personnel. Nor do they help generate politicians like presidential candidate Joe Biden, whoâ€™s ridden a wave of public anti-drug hysteria and violence throughout his 46-year political career to gain political stardom.