Tag: Drug Policy Alliance

Tell Children the Truth About Cannabis

When I found out that my parents lied to me about Santa Claus, my immediate thought was, “What else have they been lying to me about?” I had a similar reaction with cannabis because I had been taught by the local DARE program in school that I would immediately be addicted to heroin and other drugs. After realizing that I had been lied to about cannabis I wondered, “What other drugs did they lie to me about?”

While DARE officers may have inadvertently sparked my interest in drug policy reform, we are doing children, and our society, a great disservice by lying about cannabis. The fear mongering scare tactics that have been around since Reefer Madness days are just counterproductive and could push minors into using more addictive and deadly drugs after they realize that they have been lied to and the adults that shared those lies will lose credibility.

The Drug Policy Alliance on What You Should Really Tell Your Children About Marijuana:

When it comes to drug education, scare tactics and fearmongering are deeply counterproductive. The most infamous and commonly used drug education curriculum that relied on these approaches, D.A.R.E., has consistently been proven to be ineffective. Recent research about ideal forms of health education, including drug education, emphasizes the importance of skills-building as a fundamental approach.

DPA’s Safety First: Real Drug Education for Teens curriculum is the culmination of almost 20 years of work in youth drug issues by the Drug Policy Alliance (DPA). The Safety First curriculum empowers ninth and tenth grade students to make healthier decisions about alcohol and other drugs. It gives them personal and social strategies to manage the risks, benefits, and harms of alcohol and other drug use, as well as information about the impact of drug policies on their own health and the health of their communities. Most importantly, it spends a good deal of time building the critical thinking skills necessary to evaluate information about alcohol and other drugs. Safety First teaches young people to look at information critically and come to their own conclusions based on research. The aim is to give young people the tools to analyze sources such as Berenson’s book, and discover his inaccuracies and exaggerations on their own.

Personally, I believe that government agencies and nonprofits working to keep drugs out of the hands of children should bring in people from the cannabis community and industry to assist in messaging. Those of us that fight for legalization and have studied cannabis policy for years have a vested interest in keeping (non-medical) cannabis out of the hands of minors as much as anyone. Tell kids the truth about brain development and how some things are best left for adults, but don’t endanger children’s lives and your credibility with debunked myths. The truth is the way.

The Gateway Theory Has Been Debunked

As the cannabis legalization debate has moved into the mainstream, with 2/3 of Americans wanting to put an end to prohibition, it is still frustrating to hear those that oppose legalization cite the debunked “Gateway Theory.” There is simply no proof that using cannabis makes you want to move onto other drugs. Unfortunately, the debunked Gateway Theory is something that just won’t die, invading the public debate like a mindless zombie. Thankfully, a strong majority of people see through the nonsense and Reefer Madness propaganda.

From the good folks at the Drug Policy Alliance:

Research simply does not support the theory that marijuana is a “gateway” drug – that is, one whose use results in an increased likelihood of using “more serious” drugs such as cocaine and heroin. However, this flawed gateway effect is one of the principal reasons cited in defense of laws prohibiting the use or possession of marijuana.
Significant amounts of research as well as measures implemented in other countries suggest that there are far more effective and less harmful strategies for decreasing youth use of marijuana and reducing the potential harms of other illicit drug use than using the “gateway” myth as a scare tactic. New evidence suggests that marijuana can even serve as an “exit drug,” helping people to reduce or eliminate their use of more harmful drugs such as opiates or alcohol by easing withdrawal symptoms.
Reefer Madness prohibitionists may discount DPA, so here’s the Institute of Medicine debunking the Gateway Theory as “underage smoking and alcohol use typically precede marijuana use, marijuana is not the most common, and is rarely the first, ‘gateway’ to illicit drug use. There is no conclusive evidence that the drug effects of marijuana are causally linked to the subsequent abuse of other illicit drugs.”
While we are clearly winning the debate of whether to end the failed and harmful policy of cannabis prohibition, it is still irritating to have to deal with debunked theories and stereotypes. For the cannabis community to truly be free, not just legally, but also professionally and socially, it is imperative to share your stories, including whether you and loved ones have decreased the use of more harmful drugs, like opiates and alcohol, thanks to cannabis.