The infamous school drug-education program known as D.A.R.E. (Drug Abuse Resistance Education) may be removing marijuana from its curriculum. D.A.R.E. officer Mike Meyer of Kennewick, Washington explains that program’s materials for December make no mention of the substance, though he says he does not know why.
If true, this is a welcome step, although eliminating D.A.R.E. altogether would be preferable. All credible studies of the program, including a report from the Government Accountability Office, have failed to find any decrease in drug use connected with participation in D.A.R.E. Officials with the organization have apparently been slow in admitting this, however. In a libel suit brought by D.A.R.E. against Rolling Stone magazine, Federal Judge Virginia Phillips ruled that allegations printed in the magazine, including that D.A.R.E. had actually tried to suppress scientific research critical of the program, were “substantially true.” D.A.R.E. appealed the decision, but the Ninth Circuit Court upheld the ruling.
Although D.A.R.E. officials admitted their failure in 2001 and proposed a new, less hysterical curriculum, research since then has still failed to demonstrate any success. The “new” curriculum, as it is described on the website, does not seem to involve any increased commitment to facts, but rather now involves “role-playing sessions” and “discussion groups.” The summary of the new program, revealingly, makes insinuations that drug use is connected to terrorism, and in place of facts, explains that officers will be using “stunning brain imagery” as “tangible proof of how substances diminish mental activity, emotions, coordination and movement.”
Although they have possibly abandoned the anti-marijuana crusade in their school curriculum, D.A.R.E. still disseminates dishonest information on their website. An ironically named “fact sheet” repeats claims that marijuana “has a high potential for abuse,” and although it is short on the details or prevalence of this abuse, it does claim that marijuana can weaken the immune system and cause insanity and lung disease. The “fact sheet” categorically denies the medical benefits of marijuana, suggesting that it causes only “inebriation.” At the same time, it admits that THC, which the page describes as “the psychoactive [in other words mind-altering or “inebriating”] ingredient in marijuana,” has medical benefits. It implicitly denies the countless cases of experiences of medical marijuana patients who tried conventional treatments without success, claiming simply that “existing legal drugs provide superior treatment for serious medical conditions,” and “the FDA has approved safe and effective medication for the treatment of glaucoma, nausea, wasting syndrome, cancer, and multiple sclerosis.” The page even quotes the Institute of Medicine study, “Marijuana and Medicine: Assessing the Science Base,” the very same study which confirms the medical usefulness of marijuana and refutes claims that it poses a major proven risk of addiction or lung cancer, or that it causes brain damage, amotivational syndrome, suppression of the immune system, use of other illicit drugs, or premature death from any cause. The study further points out the shortcomings of existing legal medications for the relevant medical conditions, including the slow and unreliable action of synthetic THC pills.
According to Mike Riggs at Reason, D.A.R.E. headquarters has neither confirmed nor denied any shift in policy.
But there has been one noticeable difference from how the raids were carried out under the Bush administration: officials are no longer publicizing them. Mike Riggs has the story in the Daily Caller:
[T]he DOJ has demonstrated one marked change now that it’s under Democratic control: The department has stopped publicizing medical marijuana raids, both by requesting that more cases be sealed under court order and by refusing to distribute press releases.
Late last week, DEA and FBI agents raided five medical marijuana dispensaries in Nevada. In July, DEA agents raided the home of 65-year-old Mendocino County, California, grower Joy Greenfield and confiscated plants, money, and her computer. Also in July, DEA agents raided the home of a couple in Michigan who were licensed by the state to use marijuana, as well as three medical marijuana dispensaries in San Diego. In January and February of this year, the DEA raided two medical marijuana research labs in Colorado.
In all of the above cases, the DEA and the U.S. Attorneys’ offices issued no press releases and held no press conferences. The websites for DEA and the U.S. Attorneys’ offices in Detroit, Denver, Northern California, and Los Angeles (which also handles cases in Nevada) make no mention of the above dispensary raids, but do feature news releases for raids, arrests, and investigations involving harder drugs, as well marijuana trafficking, which is illegal in all states.
[…] But even if there hasn’t been any official change, Garrison Courtney, the head of communications for the DEA from 2005-2009, confirmed that his office regularly publicized dispensary busts. “When I was chief of public affairs, if it was a good case and a good bust, we put it out. There were some of the medical marijuana shops that had a ton of cash, a ton of weed, or a ton of guns, and we put it out. There wasn’t any policy against that.”
And yet, in the case of the Michigan couple, guns were found, but no press release was ever issued by the DEA or the U.S. Attorney.
Courtney added that “if you look at the DEA website, there are a lot of [Bush-era] news releases from San Francisco and Los Angeles. We were pretty aggressive in talking about the different dispensaries and the fact that they were operating in violation of federal law.”
Is this a case of officials trying to cover up their broken promises?
One month after MPP and an ideologically diverse coalition of drug policy reformers and advocacy groups called on President Obama to withdraw Michele Leonhart as his nominee for DEA administrator, a spokesperson for the White House has declared that the president is confident that the Bush holdover is the “right” choice for the job. Mike Riggs has the story in The Daily Caller:
Obama is confident that Leonhart is the right choice, the White House staffer said, and that as of Friday the president wasn’t considering anyone else for the position. In other words, the response from 1600 Pennsylvania Ave. to a chorus of concerns boils down to: Leonhart or bust.
MPP and others – including FireDogLake’s Jane Hamsher and the states-rights group the Tenth Amendment Center – pointed to Leonhart’s interim leadership of the DEA, which has included federal raids on state-legal medical marijuana providers and the denial of medical marijuana research applications, as evidence that she is continuing Bush-era policies that Obama promised to end. During the campaign, and in an October memo from the Department of Justice, the president and his administration pledged to end federal raids on state-legal medical marijuana providers.
But when Riggs asked the feds whether recent raids in California violate the spirit of the October memo, spokespeople for both the White House and DOJ seemed to backtrack on the president’s pledge.
But the White House and the Justice Department both told TheDC that Holder’s memo does not give dispensaries carte blanche to grow or sell marijuana, and that recent raids don’t conflict with what Obama expressed while campaigning.
“I wouldn’t say the memo ‘discourages’ certain raids,” a DOJ offical told TheDC. Rather, “it talks about prioritizing resources most efficiently.” And both the White House and the DOJ argued that the gist of the Holder memo was that the DEA would “not focus its limited resources on individual patients with cancer or other serious diseases.”
One can’t help but wonder, with the nomination of Leonhart, the ongoing raids, and this type of public about-face on the issue, if President Obama is now reneging on his campaign pledge to approach medical marijuana issues differently than his predecessor.
White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs thinks it’s absurd to even suggest such a thing. “I hear these people saying he’s like George Bush,” Gibbs said recently. “Those people ought to be drug tested. I mean, it’s crazy.”
Crazy is exactly right, Mr. Gibbs. I mean, it’s not like President Obama picked the same person George W. Bush did to lead the DEA, and has insisted on standing by her while she employs the same policies that were in place under Bush. Oh wait …