Pubdate: Mon, 26 Jan 2015
Source: Daily Reveille (Louisiana State U, LA Edu)
Copyright: 2015 Daily Reveille
Author: James Richards
Note: James Richards is a 20-year-old mass communication sophomore 
from New Orleans.

Truth or Dare?

Last Thursday, Hank Green was one of three Youtube celebrities tasked 
with making President Obama seem accessible to millennials. Green 
asked Obama about marijuana legalization in Colorado and Washington 
during an interview in the White House.

After assuring Colorado and Washington marijuana residents the feds 
won't go kamikaze on their crop, Obama called U.S. drug policy 
"counterproductive," suggesting a public health approach to drug use.

It was the first time in awhile I'd heard him talk about the issue. 
Despite, speaking to new people, however, the stance is nothing 
revolutionary from Obama . The President ran on this approach in 
2008, when he promised to steer the Department of Justice away from 
raiding medical marijuana patients.

The problem is his rhetoric doesn't line up with reality. The Obama 
administration blazed a warpath against legal pot, with about 270 
medical marijuana raids throughout his presidency. The administration 
spent $100 million dollars more than under both terms of George Bush.

The smoke has been extinguished though, thanks to an amendment in the 
recently signed omnibus spending bill. The amendment prevents the 
Department of Justice from using funds for raids on marijuana 
businesses in states where it's legal.

If Obama wants to treat drugs as a public health issue, instead of 
just talking like he will, then he needs to stop bothering with the 
Department of Justice and refocus his attention on the Department of Education.

The state of drug education in the United States is miserable. The 
biggest and most recognizable of the government's attempts is the 
Drug Abuse Resistance Education program, or D.A.R.E..

You might remember D.A.R.E. as the time a cop came to your school and 
told you and your fifth grade classmates how to make crystal meth.

My only D.A.R.E. experience is when some guy doing lines of something 
at Voodoo Fest wearing a shirt emblazoned with the logo, blocked what 
would normally have been a wonderful view of Pearl Jam.

Despite festival kiddies ironically wearing the t-shirts, there isn't 
much success to speak of for D.A.R.E. The program has proven 
ineffective at stopping kids from using drugs in multiple 
peer-reviewed academic studies as far back as the '90s.

Turns out "just say no" is a pretty terrible education strategy for 
preventing drug abuse. Just like the bane of abstinence-only 
education, trying to scare kids out of doing something will only 
further their interest in it.

One of the arguments made by D.A.R.E. proponents is its better than 
nothing. This falls flat in the face of facts.

A six-year study from researchers at the University of Illinois at 
Chicago found student-reported drug use as higher in D.A.R.E. schools 
than in schools with no comparable drug education.

It's an undeniable fact kids want to and will experiment with drugs, 
just like with sex. If drug education is designed around that simple 
fact, it'll be much closer to the reality of drug use than what is 
currently taught in school.

Harm reduction strategies do just that. The Drug Policy Alliance 
defines harm reduction as "a public health philosophy and 
intervention that seeks to reduce the harms associated with drug use 
and ineffective drug policies."

Harm reduction is already incorporated into government policies in 
other parts of the world. Needle exchange programs allow intravenous 
drug users to swap their dirty, disease-ridden needles for clean ones.

The US is the only country in the world to ban the use of government 
money for NEPs, despite seven federally-funded studies finding they 
reduced rates of HIV while not encouraging more drug use.

Because of these and other programs, the Netherlands has virtually 
eliminated heroin use among young people, with more than nine out of 
10 heroin users over the age of 40.

If you aren't convinced about needle exchange programs, another 
prominent example of harm-reduction in action is pill testing at 
music festivals, a place where intoxicated colleges students are 
almost as plentiful as music.

There, unethical dealers peddle synthetic cathinones, known commonly 
as "bath salts," under the guise of popular club drugs like MDMA and 
cocaine. Groups like DanceSafe and Bunk Police offer testing kits to 
help concert-goers identify what the hell they're putting in their body.

Serious discussions require serious solutions, so if the President 
wants to do anything about the lies he's advanced throughout his 
presidency, then education is the first place to start.
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MAP posted-by: Jay Bergstrom