Truth or D.A.R.E.?

Rumors about recent changes to the DARE curriculum regarding marijuana are less than accurate

I recently read several reports that the D.A.R.E. program would be “dropping marijuana” from their curriculum. These started to surface on election day last week, and with the passage of Amendment 64 and I-502 the rumors continued to spread. At first, after hearing this, I was somewhat excited, but then I stopped to think about it for a second. Why would D.A.R.E. drop marijuana from their curriculum? Something smelled fishy. With it’s now legal and medicinal statuses in so many states, it’s still a substance D.A.R.E. would continue to educate students about in my mind, as D.A.R.E. discusses both legal and illegal drugs. As a D.A.R.E.graduate, I vividly remember discussing marijuana with my D.A.R.E. officer as both an elementary and middle school student. I had my doubts.

So, I looked into it. I talked with Francisco Pegueros, the executive director and chief operations officer for D.A.R.E. America about the reported curriculum change earlier this week. Not surprisingly, the rumors were in fact false. D.A.R.E. will not be dropping marijuana any time soon, and they haven’t undergone any curriculum changes since 2011 when they introduced the “Keepin’ It Real” program, where marijuana is very much part of the discussion, especially in the middle school curriculum. “What has changed is the manner in which it [marijuana] is dealt with”, said Pegueros. He explained that the elementary curriculum doesn’t proactively address marijuana unless it is brought up by a student in a D.A.R.E. classroom, or established as an “age appropriate” topic of discussion by school administrators, “since it’s not a topic that all students have universally had experience with.” However, that doesn’t mean that they ignore it. “Should the topic of marijuana come up in discussion by an elementary student, then the D.A.R.E. officer can address it.”, Pegueros stated.

Pegueros estimated that the rumors started after an interview with a D.A.R.E. officer in Washington State, where some comments were made regarding a change with the passage of I-502, Washington’s marijuana legalization initiative. I asked Pegueros about any expected changes to the marijuana curriculum in the wake of the passage of I-502 and Amendment 64, and he says D.A.R.E. has no plans of dropping marijuana despite it’s statewide legalization in Washington and Colorado. “I think what will be required now is enhanced prevention efforts.” (whatever that means) As he and D.A.R.E. see it, as legalization spreads, the risk perception of marijuana will decrease, and they are just as concerned as ever that “experimentation and use will increase.”

So, don’t hold your breath waiting for any drastic changes to the D.A.R.E. program now that marijuana laws are rapidly changing across the nation. It seems that reefer madness is just as high as ever over at the D.A.R.E. America HQ.