Quietly, with little fanfare or vocal opposition, the Drug Abuse Resistance Education program known as D.A.R.E. reportedly removed marijuana from its ‘list of gateway drugs’ on its website. But that doesn’t necessarily mean D.A.R.E. no longer sees marijuana as a gateway drug, as some are reporting. Actually, the reporting doesn’t even mean that D.A.R.E has changed its stance on marijuana at all, or even has an official ‘list of gateway’ drugs. Let me explain.
A ‘gateway drug’ is “a drug (such as alcohol or marijuana) that is thought to lead to the use of more dangerous drugs (such as cocaine or heroin).” Everyone knows there is nothing positive about cigarettes. Marijuana, on the other hand, provides all sorts of medical benefits that more doctors are coming to acknowledge today.
Folks like me – children of the ’80’s – were inundated with anti-marijuana ‘teachings’ in school and in TV commercials. I grew up believing marijuana use would likely lead me down the path of harder drugs. I learned how to “just say no” and believed Nancy Reagan when she said toking up was a sure path to drug addiction, job loss, family and societal rejection, and death.
Less than 2 years ago, in October 2014, D.A.R.E. was still intent on framing marijuana as the ticket to appearing on an episode of Cops when it wrote on its site:
“While the drug [marijuana] is being legalized in some states for medicinal and, in some cases, recreational purposes, there are many experts who still consider it the path to a life of ruin.”
(This, even though a 2014 survey from Medscape and WebMD found that 56% of doctors approve of medical marijuana.)
Even the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) admits:
“most people who use marijuana do not go on to use other, ‘harder’ substances.”
But the organization isn’t completely wrong. For some, pot is the path to a life of ruin. But some studies show that people who start with pot and graduate to stronger drugs were likely going to do so anyway. Whether they used marijuana or not, they were going to journey into drug addiction, regardless. Pot just happened to be available. Pot, in itself, does not put people in a trance-like state that drives them to stick a needle in their arm.
So, Did D.A.R.E.’s Position Change?
Most recently, pot’s ‘absence as a gateway drug’ was discovered by a Reddit user.
Leafly contacted D.A.R.E. to find out why the group removed marijuana from its list of gateway drugs. Said regional director Ron Brogan:
“I suppose it could have come out as part of our new curriculum, ‘Keepin’ It Real,’ and that may be the thought of the scientist that developed that,” he said. “To be quite honest, I really don’t have an answer.”
Though according to Forbes, D.A.R.E. hasn’t really softened up on its stand on marijuana. Although the following correction issued by D.A.R.E. in late February doesn’t clearly say marijuana is still indeed a gateway drug, it does show that D.A.R.E.’s position hasn’t changed.
“Some pro-drug websites are promulgating misinformation claiming ‘Drug Abuse Resistance Education program (D.A.R.E.), one of the largest anti-drug groups in the world, no longer lists marijuana as a so-called ‘gateway drug.’… Had nominal research been conducted by the author(s), substantial reference on the D.A.R.E. website would have been found in support of D.A.R.E.’s position that marijuana is both an illegal and harmful drug to the youth of this nation. The author(s) would have had justification to instead state: D.A.R.E. considers marijuana to be a dangerous drug for youth of the United States and the world!”
Forbes writer continues to explain:
“He [Frank Pegueros, DARE America’s president and CEO] says the confusion is ‘based on what appears to have been a partial posting of a document on our website.’ The part that was posted (which has since been removed) discussed alcohol and tobacco as gateway drugs; the part discussing marijuana as a gateway drug was on a subsequent page that was not posted.
‘It’s obvious from looking at the document that the entire document was in fact not posted, because it only addressed tobacco and alcohol,’ Pegueros says. ‘It didn’t address marijuana or inhalants, the typical substances considered to be gateway drugs.'”
So while states begin to see marijuana for what it is – a relatively safe substance with healing capabilities – D.A.R.E. has not changed its tune like some would have you believe.